Avian Influenza(Links to the Defra webinars can be found at the bottom of this article)
Avian influenza (AI) is a notifiable disease. All suspect AI cases in poultry and other kept birds must be reported – this is a legal requirement:
In England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.
In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.
As the situation is ever changing, vets, keepers of backyard flocks and any other types of poultry, and wildlife rehabilitators are advised to sign up to the APHA’s Animal Disease alert subscription service to receive immediate notification of new cases and updated zones. Further details can be found here
Clinical signs in birds
The clinical signs of HPAI in birds can include any or a combination of the following3:
sudden and rapid increase in the number of birds found dead
several birds affected in the same shed or air space
closed and excessively watery eyes
lethargy and depression
recumbency and unresponsiveness
incoordination and loss of balance
head and body tremoring
drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs
twisting of the head and neck
swelling and blue discolouration of comb, wattles and/or legs
haemorrhages on shanks of the legs and under the skin of the neck
loss of appetite or marked decrease in feed consumption
sudden increase or decrease in water consumption
respiratory distress such as gaping (mouth breathing), nasal snicking (coughing sound), sneezing, gurgling or rattling
fever or noticeable increase in body temperature
discoloured or loose watery droppings
cessation or marked reduction in egg production
Clinical signs can vary according to species of bird, age of bird (for domestic waterfowl) individual immunity and concurrent disease; some species (eg ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.
Spread of AI
Avian influenza is transmitted between birds by direct contact with an infected bird, or indirectly through contaminated body fluids and faeces, as well as by direct or indirect contact with infected wild birds and their secretions/faeces. It can also be spread by contaminated feed and water and other environmental matrices, or by dirty vehicles, clothing, footwear, and equipment. It is not an airborne virus, however there is the risk of droplet transmission.
Control of the disease, both between birds and to humans, is controlled by scrupulous biosecurity, hygiene and appropriate PPE
Biosecurity guidance for bird keepers and information on the latest avian influenza situation is available at: