NEW GUIDANCE has been issued to veterinary professionals in light of several outbreaks of Avian Influenza across the UK in recent weeks.

Vets who see wild birds and backyard poultry in practice are being encouraged to take note of the guidance which outlines the clinical signs to look out for and the steps to be followed, to report suspected cases of the notifiable disease.

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There is also detailed biosecurity information, including advice on appropriate PPE and how to examine suspected cases as safely as possible.

The guidance has been developed jointly by the British Veterinary Association (BVA), British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS).

BVA Senior Vice President, James Russell, said: “The Chief Veterinary Officers have taken swift action in response to several outbreaks in recent weeks, and brought in robust measures to contain the spread of the disease as much as possible. Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe in the winter months can carry the disease and infect other species of bird, so it’s vital that veterinary professionals who may be seeing poultry and wildlife casualties in practice know how to spot the signs and act quickly if presented with suspected cases," he continued.

“We’re pleased to be teaming up with BVPA, BSAVA and BVZS to help the profession keep pace with the outbreak response and the steps that they should follow to ensure high standards in protection and disease control.”

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BVZS Senior Vice President, Liz Mullineaux, added: “The current avian influenza situation in the UK is rapidly changing on an almost daily basis. This is clearly very difficult for veterinary colleagues in the poultry sector, but also presents some problems for those in general practice working with both backyard poultry and wild birds. The joint guidance should provide some useful practical background material for those in practice, as well as links to all the up to date Defra information.”

Avian Influenza commonly circulates in the winter months, associated with the migratory season, and can cause varying symptoms between species of bird. This virus poses a very low risk to public health, but people are being advised to avoid handling birds which are dead or displaying obvious symptoms. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.