How to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent it.
There are 2 types of avian influenza.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds.
The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:
* swollen head
* blue discolouration of neck and throat
* loss of appetite
* respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
* fewer eggs laid
* Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.
The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.
Risk to humans
Some strains of avian influenza can pass to humans, but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between the human and infected birds.
The Food Standards Agency advises that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
For more information on avian influenza in humans, read Public Health England’s advice.
If you employ people who work with poultry or work with poultry yourself, you can also read advice from the Health and Safety Executive on protecting workers from avian influenza.
How avian influenza is spread
The disease spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces.
The avian influenza virus changes frequently, creating new strains, and there is a constant risk that one of the new strains may spread among people.
But there is no evidence that any recent strain of avian influenza has been able to spread directly between humans.
Avian influenza isn’t an airborne disease.
Preventing and controlling avian influenza
APHA surveys birds for certain strains of avian influenza once a year, to check if the disease is present in Great Britain. APHA officers will contact you if they need to take blood samples from your birds.
You can help prevent avian influenza by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.
You should follow guidance on handling and disposing of dead birds.
If you suspect avian influenza, APHA vets will investigate.
If avian influenza is confirmed it will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases and the avian influenza control strategy will be implemented.