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COUNCILS ON GUARD AGAINST BIRD FLU

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Council workers are on full alert to detect signs of avian flu in birds as the virus continues to spread closer to ...
Council workers are on full alert to detect signs of avian flu in birds as the virus continues to spread closer to the UK (1).

Local authorities have put into action a range of plans to ensure any signs of avian flu in birds are detected at the earliest opportunity.

Preventative measures being deployed include:

* Ensuring the owners of 50 or more birds register their flocks with DEFRA (3)

* Enforcing regulations at bird gatherings

* Ensuring animal disease contingency plans are in place

* Rapid responses to suspected animal disease outbreaks

* Inspections of poultry markets, animal gatherings, vehicles transporting live animals near slaughterhouses and pet shops

* Countryside rangers checking for signs of avian flu in birds whilst out on patrol

* Issuing guidance to stallholders, farm shops and the poultry industry about separating flocks of poultry from wild birds

* Training inspectors of farms and poultry markets to spot signs of avian flu

* Contingency exercises with the State Veterinary Service

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, said: 'Council staff across the country are now on guard and are fully prepared for the outbreak of bird flu. Whilst nobody should panic, we want the public to be reassured that everything is being done to protect them.

'From the countryside rangers on the south coast keeping an eye out for infected birds, to the inspectors at poultry markets, council staff are keeping a continual eye on the situation. Vigorous contingency plans are also in place in the event of any outbreak (2).'

If there is an outbreak, councils will have a major role, said Sir Sandy.

Countryside rangers have been trained to detect for signs of avian flu in birds and are patrolling the south coast of England on the lookout for any symptoms.

North Yorkshire CC has provided farm and poultry market inspectors with specialist training to look for signs of avian flu in birds.

Hampshire CC have stocked up on face masks, disposable gloves and disinfectant.

NOTES

(1) Cases have now been reported in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Turkey. Experts predict the most likely way the HN51 strain of the virus will spread further is through the spring migration, although government advisers have said freezing weather around the Black Sea could drive infected birds to Britain within ten days. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation director, Samuel Jutzi, said this week: 'We need to be aware that there's a real risk for Europe when the birds migrate northwards this spring.' The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs is taking advice from migratory experts. Details here.

(2) In the event of an avian flu outbreak, action councils are prepared to take includes:

* Restriction of bird gatherings and help to separate poultry from wild birds

* Enforcing movement restrictions

* Signposting restricted areas

* The possible closure of footpathsbased on expert advice

* Enforcing requirements relating to the cleansing and disinfection of vehicles

* Gathering information on bird owners and providing guidance.

(3) Commercial poultry premises with 50 or more birds are required by law to register with DEFRA. Premises with fewer than 50 are encouraged to do so.

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