Two more cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (avian flu) were confirmed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (HPHA) yesterday (Wednesday, December 8) at premises in North Yorkshire and South Suffolk.

The premises in North Yorkshire is near Thirsk, Hambleton, and is the eighth premises with a confirmed case in that area.

The premises in South Suffolk is near Sudbury, Babergh.

All birds on the infected premises will be humanely culled and 3km and 10km Surveillance Zones have been put in place.

Largest ever UK outbreak of avian flu

The UK is now in the midst of its largest ever outbreak of avian flu, according to Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales Lesley Griffiths.

Updating her constituents and beyond on the progression of the risk threat in Wales yesterday (December 8), she said:

“As of 1:00p.m on the December 8, 2021, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been confirmed in poultry or other captive birds at 36 premises in Great Britain, with over 276 findings in wild birds in 80 separate locations.

This is now the largest ever UK outbreak of avian flu, and there is no immediate sign of the situation improving.”

Echoing Griffith's words on BBC 4 radio today (December 9) chief veterinary office Christine Middlemiss said the UK is seeing 'phenomenal levels' and that she is 'very concerned'.

"I'm very concerned about what's happening. We no have a total of 40 infected premises in the UK.

That's a really high number."

She added that roughly half a million birds have been culled so far.

The spread

Outbreaks began in late autumn as wild birds undertaking their migration for the winter carried the disease with them.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was put in place in early November and extended to include housing measures across the UK on November 29.

These measures mean it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in their backyard) to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of the disease.

These AIPZ regulations may differ across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Individual information can be found on corresponding government websites.

If keepers have any concerns they are urged to seek prompt advice from their vet, or if they suspect a case of bird flu they should report it to Defra as soon as possible.