Wigan households and businesses urged not to drop their guard over continued bird flu fears

Wigan’s bird flu problems have yet to be declared over, scientists say.

Residents living between three and 10 kilometres away from the epicentre of January’s outbreak in Up Holland have been receiving letters over recent weeks from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of a follow-up surveillance programme to ensure further infections do not occur.

A number of birds were culled at the beginning of the year after avian influenza was confirmed at non-commerical premises in the village.

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Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease which can be fatal to birds – hence the need to stop its spread – and if anyone suspects any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds they must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

Birds have had to be culled in the Wigan area following a bird flu outbreak at the beginning of the yearBirds have had to be culled in the Wigan area following a bird flu outbreak at the beginning of the year
Birds have had to be culled in the Wigan area following a bird flu outbreak at the beginning of the year

Transmission from birds to humans is infrequent and no sustained human-to-human transmission has been reported, but it has been known to cause severe disease in humans on rare occasions.

A number of Wigan Today readers have been in touch asking why they are receiving letters now when the initial reports of the outbreak were so long ago.

It caused some to wonder whether there had been a new outbreak since.

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But Defra say that this not the case and that it is normal to send correspondence to those living within the outer ring of the bird flu exclusion zone.

A spokeswoman said: “Following an avian flu outbreak near Up Holland, West Lancashire,even though domestic movement restrictions could be lifted after a minimum of 30 days from the date of preliminary cleansing and disinfection, trade restrictions remain for a further 60 days and we need to undertake ongoing surveillance in these 10km restricted zones throughout the whole of this 90-day period.

“As part of ongoing surveillance, we need to understand how many bird keepers there are in the zone.

“There is only a legal requirement to register more than 50 kept birds, but we need to contact everyone who keeps chickens and other captive birds, whether commercially or as pets.

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“Therefore, earlier this month, letters were sent to all households in the three to 10 km zone in order to make contact with anyone that has poultry or captive birds, and encourage them to voluntarily register any birds held. We also want to ensure all bird keepers in the area receive important messages about biosecurity.

“Please note that we only send letters to households in the three to 10km area, since we conduct foot patrols in the zero to three kilometre zone to identify bird keepers.

"This is why those closer to outbreaks would not have received letters.”

There are locations over several parts of the country where there have been avian influenza outbreaks in recent months, some of which are new and some of which are still being monitored.

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This is in fact the biggest bird flu outbreak ever recorded in the UK.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Order requires all bird owners to keep their flocks indoors.

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