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Avian influenza (bird flu)

Avian influenza is a highly infectious disease affecting many species of birds, including commercial, wild and pet birds. It may also affect people and other animals in certain circumstances. It is caused by a Type A influenza virus.


Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is primarily a disease of birds. It's caused by influenza viruses closely related to human influenza viruses.

Outbreak of bird flu - March 2021

An outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) was confirmed at a farm near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire on 29 March 2021.

If you keep poultry or other birds you need to be aware of this outbreak as it affects part of the Derbyshire Dales.

The outbreak is being dealt with by Staffordshire County Council trading standards and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, with 3km and 10km protection and surveillance zones in place.

See which areas the protection and surveillance zones cover and get more information from Defra.

New measures require all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease that mainly affects wild and captive birds such as poultry and game birds.

On 11 November 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the government department responsible for the environment, declared England and Wales as prevention zones to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza from wild birds to captive birds.

The measures apply to all keepers of captive birds from large scale poultry producers to seasonal poultry keepers and keepers of backyard flocks and pet birds.

Find out how to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it in the latest government bird flu guidance.

Avian flu symptoms

Birds with avian influenza may have the following symptoms:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of the neck or throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gasping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling and rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • increased mortality

Poultry keepers and members of the public must be vigilant.

If you keep captive birds such as poultry, including as pets, and you suspect avian influenza you must report this to DEFRA tel: 0300 0200301.

If you see a dead wild bird these must be reported to DEFRA, tel: 03459 335577 (select option 7). Good location information for a dead or diseased bird is very important. If you use a location app such as 'what3words', references can be very helpful.

The Food Standards Agency advised that avian influenza in poultry does not pose a food safety risk, and Public Health England has advised that the risk of transmission of avian influenza to humans is very low.

Read further details about avian influenza data and analysis.

Register your flock

You can help prevent the spread of disease and protect the national poultry flock by registering your flock (however small) on the Poultry Register.