The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, recently declared that the country is free from bird flu after international standards to stamp out the virus had successfully been met.
The statement came in early September, following the UK's successful containment of a major outbreak of bird flu last winter. The outbreak saw 26 cases of avian influenza confirmed in kept poultry and wild birds in the UK between November 2020 and March 2021.
Despite the recent breakthrough, highly contagious avian influenza continues to circulate throughout Europe among both wild and captive birds, and Middlemiss has warned poultry farmers to remain vigilant for signs of the disease as the winter months approach again in case migratory birds flying to the UK over the colder months could bring the flu back with them.
Last winter, the government sought to control the spread of bird flu and protect poultry from infection from wild birds by requiring keepers to temporarily house their birds and implementing a ban on bird gatherings.
Paying tribute to poultry and bird keepers who helped contain the disease, Middlemiss said: “The last year has been very challenging for all those who keep poultry and captive birds, and I would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping us contain the disease. This is an important milestone that will help our efforts to re-open export markets.
“While we are now free of bird flu in this country there is a constant risk of the disease returning through wild birds and this is likely to increase as winter approaches, temperatures fall, and more migratory birds start arriving in the UK.
“Poultry and captive bird keepers should maintain good biosecurity practises, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds. Building these simple actions into routines now will go a long way to limiting the risk of future outbreaks.”
The statement from the chief veterinary officer comes as a major boost to poultry and bird keepers but also to those who supply key biosecurity products to the industry to help keep poultry safe. SA & DE Dixon Ltd, a family owned, and family run business based on the Shropshire-Powys border, is one of these.
The business boasts its own chicken production unit and concentrates largely on across the board supplies for poultry farmers, including key biosecurity products, insecticides, rodenticides, and vitamins.
Biosecurity has long been an issue that company director, Stephen Dixon, has been passionate about. In the background of the avian influenza breakthrough, which means trade discussions on UK poultry and poultry products can resume with new and existing partners, Dixon has been vocal about the need to maintain healthy stocks in the post-Brexit trading environment.
Dixon told The Parliamentary Review: “If our trade with Europe decreases and trade with the US increases, we may see the market become flooded with US chlorinated chicken. Albeit it is cheaper, it is far less bio-secure and ethical, and these are important issues right now.”