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Swaffham poultry auctioneer urges people to stay cautious after UK bird flu outbreaks

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A West Norfolk poultry auctioneer has said he is effectively in "two lockdowns" due to a UK bird flu outbreak in addition to Covid-19.

Fabian Eagle, proprietor of Swaffham-based Fabian R Eagle Auctioneers, has urged people to take additional care but not to panic over the avian influenza.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was declared across England, Scotland and Wales following a decision to raise the risk level from ‘medium’ to ‘high’ last week.

Fabian Eagle is pictured on the left with Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: SUBMITTED
Fabian Eagle is pictured on the left with Desmond MacCarthy. Picture: SUBMITTED

The outbreaks were found in wild bird populations and two chicken farms.

And the auctioneer has urged those who own birds to protect the wider poultry-keeping community.

Mr Eagle said: “I know from our poultry actions in the summer that a lot of people started keeping birds for the first time after lockdown and I have been contacted by a lot of nervous people after the confirmed outbreaks last week.

“I want to stress that people do not need to panic. It is still perfectly safe for people to keep chickens in a domestic setting."

The auctioneer, who is also a Breckland councillor, said his auction license has been suspended in response to the outbreaks, which he expects could last until the end of February at the earliest.

Mr Eagle added: "This is the sixth national lockdown and at least the fourth regional one due to avian flu so I am getting pretty used to it."

Both Mr Eagle, and Swaffham's Breckland and county councillor Ed Colman, are urging people who keep chickens to read the information on the DEFRA website, and to disinfect hands and footwear before coming into contact with their own birds if they have come into contact with wild birds.

"Really it is a case of better safe than sorry but I want to reassure people keeping chickens is still perfectly safe providing you follow hygiene best practise," Mr Eagle said.

The prevention zone means bird-keepers across the country must:

  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures;
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.

The prevention zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of work to monitor the threat of bird flu.

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