The Scottish Government has declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to the threat posed by bird flu bird in Britain and Europe.

A series of "stringent" protective measures have been introduced in an effort to prevent the spread of avian influenza from wild birds or any other source.

Officials say the precautionary step has been taken in response to cases of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8, causing high mortality in poultry and wild birds in England and in Europe.

The prevention zone, similar to those also declared in England and Wales, will be kept under review and adjusted as deemed necessary.

What has the Scottish Government said?

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “We have declared a Prevention Zone as a precautionary measure to protect Scotland’s poultry industry. 

"I urge all bird keepers to maintain and strengthen their farm biosecurity measures in order to help prevent an outbreak of avian influenza in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government and its partners continue to monitor the situation in in England and in Europe closely and stand ready to respond to any suspicion of disease in Scotland. 

"Any bird keepers who have concerns should immediately seek veterinary advice.”

HeraldScotland:

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “The risk of an HPAI incursion into poultry in the UK was very recently raised from low to  ‘medium’, although for wild birds the risk has been raised from ‘medium’ to ‘high’.

"It is normal to see these viruses circulating among wild bird populations at this time of year, however the strain seen in Europe appears to be particularly virulent which is a cause for some concern. 

“Consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry given the expert advice about food safety and human health.”You can report suspected or confirmed cases in Scotland by contacting your local Field Services Office.

What happens if I think there is a case?

In Great Britain, if you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7).

Failure to report a suspected case of Avian influenza is an offence.

More advice and regular updates on the latest situation is available on the Scottish Governments’ avian flu site.

In the UK, bird owners are legally required to register their birds if they keep more than 50, although keepers with less than 50 birds are likewise strongly encouraged to register.

It is also a legal requirement to notify APHA of any significant changes in the average number of birds kept.

When was the last outbreak?

The last UK avian influenza outbreak was highly pathogenic H5N8 in Cheshire, November 2020. 

There have also been a number of confirmed reports of avian influenza in wild birds including geese and swans in the Netherlands and north of Germany in recent weeks. These wild birds are all on the waterfowl flyway from breeding grounds in western Russia, where the H5N8 strain was reported in poultry in mid-October.

As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time.