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Avian flu in the UK

What is Avian flu and why do I need to be aware of this?

Avian influenza, or flu, is primarily a disease of birds, but is of public health importance as it has the potential to spread to humans who have contact with infected birds. We know that some registered childminders in England and Wales keep chickens, other wildfowl or other caged birds and so have brought together recent guidance on prevention and steps that need to be taken.

There have been recent outbreaks in Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Carmarthenshire.

There is detailed information on the website that applies to both England and Wales, including the symptoms of the disease.

What should I do if I keep domestic birds in my setting?

There is a prevention zone now in place across the whole of the UK until 28 February 2017. If you keep poultry, you should keep a close watch on them for signs of disease, and maintain high levels of biosecurity at all times, housing them separately to other birds so that contact is not possible with wild birds. This is to help prevent infections spreading. If you have any concerns about the health of your poultry, seek prompt advice from your vet. Housing birds means that they should not have access to roam in gardens or make contact with other birds or animals (including vermin).

If you keep your birds in your garden, consider housing them in alternative accommodation, such as a garden building, a garage or redundant building that could be adapted to house them temporarily.

If you are looking to do this remember to check for, and remove, hazardous and toxic substances such as rat bait, and make sure the birds have access to water and somewhere to perch. You must also practice good biosecurity - for example disinfecting footwear and equipment and washing clothing after contact with birds.

PACEY would recommend preventing contact between children in your care and any poultry or cadged birds until the prevention order has been lifted. It would also be good practice to carry out a written risk assessment on this, sharing it with parents.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs have produced a leaflet specifically with guidance for those with backyard flocks of chickens or other poultry on how to keep them safe.

What should I do if I suspect illness in domestic birds in my setting?

Some strains of avian influenza cause a notifiable disease. If you suspect any strain of avian flu you must tell your nearest Animal and Plant and Health Agency (APHA) office immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.  Any suspected notifiable diseases in birds in the childcare setting should also be reported to Ofsted (England) and CSSIW (Wales) in line with policies and procedures following any advice given.

What if I have seen poultry not housed or kept separately in the area?

If you’re concerned about backyard flocks which haven’t been housed or kept separate, then the owner may not yet be aware of the requirement; you can contact your local Trading Standards team if you’re still concerned.