Avian Influenza: Disease Control

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 28th July 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to increase monitoring of wild bird populations in light of the influx of H5N1 avian flu infections; and what steps they are taking to protect (1) vulnerable, and (2) threatened, populations.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra is working with Devolved Administrations, Arm’s Length Bodies and NGOs to monitor and respond to the effect of avian influenza on wild birds. This includes providing advice on mitigation measures that can be put in place to both protect public health and the impact on wild birds where possible. However, avian influenza is a natural transmission process in wild birds and there is limited evidence that mitigation measures are effective at reducing transmission of avian influenza between wild birds.

In addition to the existing avian influenza biosecurity stakeholder meetings that have been running since 2020 and have included ornithological NGO participation, Defra will convene a stakeholder working group to consider additional actions that can be taken to support the recovery of wild bird populations that have been significantly impacted by the disease. Defra is also engaging with OSPAR Heads of Delegation to share best practice, mitigation measures and lessons learnt from current and previous outbreaks.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) operates a robust programme of wild bird surveillance across Great Britain and engages in year-round avian influenza surveillance of dead wild birds submitted via public reports and warden patrols. Between 25 October 2021 and 8 July 2022, over 3,000 wild birds have been tested. Of these, 1422 have tested positive for H5 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). There have been findings in 343 different locations in 61 different species in 78 different counties. A report (updated weekly) of findings of HPAI in wild birds is published on GOV.UK together with outbreak and risk assessments. A copy of the 18 July assessment is attached to this answer.

Last month a new consortium was launched, led by Defra and APHA, to fund research to look into how avian influenza viruses are emerging in wild populations and help us understand the risk posed to both domestic and wild birds.

Additionally, Defra has commissioned Natural England to assess the vulnerability of seabird species in light of the pressures they are facing, including avian influenza, and propose actions to address them.

HPAI outbreak assessment 18 July 2022 (pdf, 1368.0KB)

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