Avian Influenza (bird flu)
Updated 27 April 2022
There are currently no active avian influenza cases on the Isle of Man and no restriction zones in place. Avian influenza is thought to be mainly spread through migratory waterfowl and it is believed that the majority of migratory species will have already left the IOM and UK. There may, however, be some circulating avian influenza in resident (wild) birds. Increasing temperatures and sunlight will reduce the level of environmental contamination as we move into summer and help to reduce the risk of further cases.
It is anticipated that the risk will increase again next winter, when the migratory waterfowl once again return the Island and the UK. We would like to urge bird keepers to think about how they can house their birds next winter and improve biosecurity to help to protect their birds from avian influenza.
Winter 2021/2022 Isle of Man
Following confirmation of H5N1 High Pathogenic avian influenza in kept birds at a premises near Sulby on the 16 January 2022, all kept birds on the infected premises have been humanely killed. Following successful completion of disease control activities and surveillance within the zone place around the premises the 1km Protection zone ended on the 11 February 2022. The whole Island remind under a Surveillance Zone but as of 15.00 20 February 2022 the Surveillance Zone was cancelled.
Two cases in wild birds were also detected on the Isle of Man, one in a dead wild goose on Tuesday 1 February 2022 near St John’s. On the 17th January 2022 and a second case of H5N1 High Pathogenic avian influenza was also detected in feral chickens in Tholt-y-will.
An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) came into force across Great Britain on the 3 November 2021, and in Northern Ireland on the 17 November 2021. This was extended to include housing measures across the UK on the 29 November 2021. The UK Chief Veterinary Officer has announced that the mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds will be lifted across the UK from 00:01 on Monday 2 May 2022. The avian influenza prevention zone will remain in force across the UK until further notice. This means all bird keepers must continue to take effective and precautionary biosecurity measures until further notice.
About Avian Influenza
Avian influenza is unconnected with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Avian influenza spreads largely due to the seasonal movements of migratory wild birds on their normal flight paths across Europe from the east to warmer places in Southern Europe and Northern Africa for overwintering. The main risk to poultry is from infected wild birds. Poultry are often more severely affected than wild birds; the disease in poultry is often debilitating and rapidly fatal. Wild birds may show minimal or no symptoms.
Avian influenza can be Highly Pathogenic (HPAI) or Low Pathogenicity (LPAI). HPAI is the more severe form of the disease.
Avian influenza is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by contacting DEFA Animal Health. Failure to do so is an offence.
The UK health security agency has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to human health is very low. The Food Standards Agency has said that on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
Good biosecurity is vital. Many diseases, not only Avian Influenza but also others like Newcastle Disease, Salmonella and Campylobacter are spread by direct bird-to-bird contact through secretions and faeces, and indirectly through contaminated feed, water, equipment, boots etc. If in doubt about what to do, seek advice from your vet.
Advice for Bird Keepers
High standards of biosecurity should be maintained as good practice for the health of your birds. Good biosecurity is an essential defence against diseases such as avian influenza and is key to limiting the spread of avian influenza in an outbreak.
Whether an outbreak of avian influenza occurs in pet birds, a backyard flock, captive birds of prey, pigeons or a commercial flock the same disease control advice applies and the same impacts on bird keepers and trade in poultry occurs.
- keep free-ranging birds in fenced areas to minimise contact with wild birds, neighbouring poultry or captive birds
- inspect outdoor areas, removing wild bird contaminants like faeces, feathers and wild bird carcases
- fence off or put netting over areas of standing water or ponds
- provide feed and water undercover, so wild birds can’t access it
- make your premises unattractive to wild birds. Use bird scarers, foils or streamers
- keep ducks and geese separate from other poultry
- store bedding under cover to reduce the risk of contamination
- clean and disinfect footwear before and after tending to your birds. If you own more than 50 birds, place foot dips containing government approved disinfectant at all entry and exit points
- clean and disinfect hard surfaces regularly
- clean and disinfect equipment and vehicles to avoid disease spread between premises
- minimise the movement of people, vehicles and equipment to and from bird areas and keep records of movements
- keep records of poultry, captive bird and egg movements
- maintain buildings that house birds to prevent water ingress
- ensure pest control is effective
For the latest Defra information, see Avian Influenza (bird flu) biosecurity (gov.uk).
What to do if you find a sick wild bird
Our advice for members of the public who encounter a sick wild bird is not to approach or touch the bird. This is to protect yourself and any kept birds.
If you encounter multiple sick birds together at the same place and time, please contact DEFA:
Thie Slieau Whallian Foxdale Road St John's IM4 3AS
What to do if you find a dead wild bird
Thank you to all who reported dead wild birds for Avian Influenza surveillance during winter 2021-22. We are now no longer undertaking extensive wild bird surveillance so it is no longer necessary to report dead wild birds. However, we would be grateful if the public would continue to report findings of either: two or more large waterfowl (such as swans or geese) found together and freshly dead, or 6 or more smaller birds found together and all freshly dead.
If found, please contact:
Thie Slieau Whallian Foxdale Road St John's IM4 3AS
Please leave details of your finding and its location. We may collect some of these birds and test them, please be aware not all birds will be collected. Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza. Please note the phone and emails are not being monitored outside of normal office hours so voice messages and emails will be picked up on the next working day.
If the bird is a single, small garden or wild bird then you do not need to contact DEFA. You should leave it alone, or follow the guidelines below for disposal.
Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people and some simple hygiene precautions should minimise the risk of infection. It is hard for people to catch avian influenza from birds and the following simple steps are also effective against avian influenza.
If you have to move a dead bird
- Avoid touching the bird with your bare hands
- If possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling (if disposable gloves are not available see 7)
- Place the dead bird in a suitable plastic bag, preferably leak-proof. Care should be taken not to contaminate the outside of the bag.
- Tie the bag and place it inside a second plastic bag.
- Remove gloves by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag. Tie the bag and dispose of in the normal household refuse bin.
- Hands should then be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
- If disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove. When the dead bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household refuse bin.
- Alternatively, the dead bird can be buried, but not in the plastic bag.
- Any clothing that has been in contact with the dead bird should be washed using ordinary washing detergent at the temperature normally used for washing the clothing.
- Any contaminated indoor surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with normal household cleaner.
Hunting and shooting of wild birds
There have been no new restrictions introduced because of the avian influenza outbreak with regards to shooting of birds, or consuming wild birds.
The information regarding any new restrictions are available on this webpage but please note the situation is evolving, we aim to keep our webpage up to date with any new restrictions.
General advice about shooting and consuming wild birds
Consuming wild birds, as long as the meat is well cooked is very low risk to human health.
Anyone attending a shoot should follow good personal biosecurity and should regularly cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear and vehicles – this is particularly important if they have any contact with game birds, poultry or other captive birds. There is, however, a possibility – albeit remote - that wild birds shot or culled in pest and predator control could be infected with bird flu at any time of the year, so it clearly makes sense to avoid actions that could spread infection from killed wild birds into any kept birds, whatever their species. Do not use the same vehicles and storage facilities for shot and live birds without thorough cleansing and disinfection in between. Keep all shot or culled birds well away from any kept flocks. Likewise, wash or sanitise hands and wash clothing well after handling dead birds and before any contact with kept flocks to minimise spreading infection.