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Avian flu

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 confirmed in premises near Cumnock, East Ayrshire - Update November 2022

Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Sheila Voas, has confirmed that a commercial flock of hens at a premises near Cumnock, East Ayrshire, have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1.

In order to limit further spread of disease, appropriate restrictions have been imposed, and a 3 km Protection Zone (PZ) and 10 km Surveillance Zone (SZ) have been declared, which took effect at 21:00 on 04 November 2022. Within these zones, a range of different controls and restrictions are implemented, including restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcases, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

Keepers can find out if their premises is in a zone on the Animal and Plant Health Agency's (APHA) interactive map.

Outbreak overview

The confirmation of this case of HPAI H5N1 is the 5th in Scotland in the current 2022/2023 HPAI outbreak season (which began on 01 October 2022).  The other Scottish cases are:

  • near Kirkwall, Orkney Islands - confirmed 30 October 2022
  • near Huntly, Aberdeenshire - confirmed 29 October 2022
  • near Tankerness, Orkney Islands - confirmed 14 October 2022
  • on Great Bernera, Uig, Isle of Lewis - confirmed 12 October 2022

Since the start of the 2022/23 HPAI outbreak season, HPAI H5N1 has been confirmed in 100 premises in the UK: 5 in Scotland, 2 in Wales, 1 in Northern Ireland and 92 in England.

We administratively closed the 2021/2022 HPAI outbreak season with 158 premises infected with HPAI H5N1 in the UK: 11 in Scotland, seven in Wales, six in Northern Ireland and 134in England.  (Prior to this, the largest number was 26 cases of HPAI in the UK in 2020/2021 and 13 cases in 2016/2017).

The current risk of incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 infection in wild birds is at Very High.  The risk of poultry and captive bird exposure to HPAI H5 across Great Britain is at High where biosecurity is sub-optimal, and is at Medium where stringent biosecurity measures are applied.

Advice to keepers

This further detection of HPAI H5N1 in Scotland, and the cases highlighted above, do not alter the advice from Public Health Scotland that therisk to the general public's health from avian influenza is very low.  However, the risk to people with intensive exposure to infected birds is considered to be low.  Food Standards Scotland advises that avian influenzas pose a very low food safetyrisk for consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.

Clinical signs indicative of avian influenza must be immediately reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Field Services OfficeFailure to do so is an offence.

High standards of biosecurity must be maintained as good practice for the health of your birds, and good biosecurity is an essential defence against diseases, such as avian influenza, and is key to limiting the spread of avian influenza during an outbreak.

Please be aware that the previously declared Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) (with separate declarations in each UK administration) is still in force.  The AIPZ makes stringent mandatory biosecurity measures mandatory for all bird keepers (including those who keep pet birds) to help prevent the spread of avian influenza from wild birds or any other source, and requires all keepers of poultry or other captive birds (including keepers of game birds, waterfowl, and pet birds) to take immediate action to reduce the risk of disease in their flock by following the relevant biosecurity measures required within the zone.  Amongst others, the AIPZ aims to:

  • prevent fomite spread from premises to premises
  • prevent poultry and other captive birds having contact with wild birds
  • prevent poultry and other captive birds having contact with rodents or flood water
  • ensure buildings are maintained to prevent access by rodents and wild birds
  • ensure buildings are outdoor areas are maintained to prevent ingress from flood water

Specific measures include the requirement for keepers with more than 500 birds to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleansed and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.  Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.

GB Poultry Register

In GB, you are legally required to register your birds if you keep more than 50.  Keepers with less than 50 birds are strongly encouraged to register.  It is also a legal requirement to notify APHA of any significant changes in the average number of birds kept.

Wild Birds

Since 01 October 2022, the GB Dead Wild Bird Surveillance Scheme has reported 234 wild birds infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, 10 of which have been in Scotland.

Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people, so do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

If a single dead bird of prey, three dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or five or more dead wild birds of any other species are found at the same place at the same time, they should be reported to Defra's GB helpline (03459 33 55 77).  Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.

Further advice for keepers can be found on our avian influenza web pages.


A number of deceased birds have been washed up on beaches across South Ayrshire, and it is suspected that they have sadly been infected with Avian Flu.

Our Waste Management team are currently working to remove the birds from the areas. As part of this process, they need to wear personal protective equipment, so please don't be alarmed if you see them while they are uplifting the birds.

Avian Flu poses a very low risk to humans, however we would ask that you:

• Do not touch any dead or sick birds

• Keep children away from dead or sick birds

• Keep dogs and other animals away from dead or sick birds

• Avoid feeding wild birds, as this causes them to congregate and may encourage the spread of the disease

• Do not touch wild bird feathers or surfaces contaminated with wild bird droppings

• If you come in contact with wild birds, wash your hands and clean and disinfect your footwear

Please report any sightings of dead birds on public land to our Waste Management team on 0300 123 0900

If you come in contact with wild dead birds and develop flu like symptoms then please contact your GP or NHS 111.

Avian influenza

Avian influenza (bird flu) mainly affects birds. It can also affect humans and other mammals. 

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been confirmed in Scotland and in other parts of the UK.

Read about the latest situation of avian influenza outbreaks, including details of the current disease response plan in place. Mandatory biosecurity requirements are still in force.

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 your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Clinical signs

Avian influenza viruses can be classified according to their ability to cause severe disease (pathogenicity) as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic. The viruses are described by their major antigen determinants, H (for haemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase). The current strain of concern is a highly pathogenic H5N1.

In birds we are mainly concerned with H5 and H7 subtypes. It is known that the LPAI H5 and H7 virus subtypes can mutate into the highly pathogenic form that causes serious illness and deaths in birds, although in water fowl the disease may not be apparent.

Low pathogenic avian influenza

Typically, infection with LPAI is often difficult to detect, with very few if any clinical signs. An infected flock might show signs of respiratory distress, diarrhoea, a loss of appetite or a drop in egg production of more than 5%. If you are suspicious your flock has any form of avian influenza you must contact your local animal health office immediately.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza

Typically this form of the disease presents suddenly, often with very high mortality, with affected birds developing swollen heads, a blue colouration of the comb and wattles, dullness, lack of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and significant drop in egg production. However, there can be considerable variation in the clinical picture and severity of the disease. If you are suspicious your flock has any form of avian influenza you must contact your local animal health office immediately.

If you suspect signs of any notifiable diseases, you must immediately notify your Scotland: field service local office at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Failure to do so is an offence. Sign up to the APHA Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news.

Human health implications

Some strains of bird flu can pass to humans but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between humans and infected birds. Find out more at: bird flu and human health

Reporting dead wild birds

You should call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) if you find:

  • one or more dead bird of prey or owl
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks) 
  • 5 or more dead birds of any species
  •  

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. For further information see our advice to the public.

Dead or sick wild birds: what to do

Advice for members of the public, farmers and landowners

Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people, so do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

In Great Britain, if you find three dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species (including gulls) at the same place at the same time, you should report them to Defra's national GB telephone helpline: 03459 33 55 77 . It is advisable that you do not touch these birds.

If a wild animal is suspected of being infected with a disease that can spread to people or animals, such as avian influenza, the carcases must be disposed of as a category 1 Animal By Product (ABP) via an approved disposal route.

If wild birds are not suspected of being infected with a disease and do not require reporting to Defra's GB helpline, follow the advice below for their disposal.

Advice on the disposal of dead wild birds found on private property can be found at Dead or sick wild birds: what to do - Avian influenza (bird flu): how to spot and report the disease - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Disposal of dead wild birds on public land

Where dead birds are on public land, it is the local authority's responsibility to safely dispose of the carcases. To report dead birds on public land contact the Waste Management team on 0300 123 0900

Wildlife Crime

If you find a deceased raptor/corvid that you believe to be the victim of wildlife crime, do not touch the bird. This will help preserve any evidence of a potential crime scene. Also, the dead bird may contain poisons that can be absorbed into the skin or contaminate the environment. Please contact the police on 101 and ask if the matter can be referred to a Wildlife Crime Officer. There is more information on the Police Scotland website. Alternatively, the incident can be reported anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

Report an injured animal or sick bird to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in Scotland.

(Telephone: 03000 999 999). Information about call charges is available.

Note: Please do not take sick birds to the SSPCA National Wildlife Rescue Centre, nor to any of their animal rescue and rehoming centres. Due to the current avian influenza situation the SSPCA cannot admit them due to the potential risk they could impose to other birds in their care.