PEOPLE who keep birds in Herefordshire are urged to be vigilant amid an outbreak of bird flu.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was put in place across the whole of England earlier this month following a number of cases among wild and commercial birds.

The virus circulates naturally in wild birds. When they migrate to Britain over the winter, they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

It is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers — both commercial and domestic — to follow biosecurity measures.

Keepers of more than 500 birds now have to restrict access to their sites. Workers must change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

‘Backyard’ owners with smaller numbers of birds, including chickens, ducks and geese, must also take steps. These include keeping ducks and geese separate from other poultry and discouraging wild birds. Further biosecurity measures can be found at the gov.ukwebsite.

Councillor Ange Tyler, cabinet member for housing, regulatory services and community safety said: “Herefordshire Council would like any keepers of poultry and captive birds in the county to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds.

“If you have any concerns, please seek prompt advice from your vet, and help to prevent avian flu by following the government advice and maintaining good biosecurity on your premises.”

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zonewill be in place until further notice. It will be kept under regular review as part of our work to monitor the threat of bird flu, she added.

The UK health agencies have emphasised that the risk to public health from the virus remains very low.

The UK food standards agencies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for consumers.Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, continue to be safe to eat.

Bird keepers and all members of the public should report sightings of dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577.

Keepers should report any suspicion of disease among their birds by calling 03000 200301.