CASES of bird flu have been found in birds in west Cheshire.

Action is being taken to contain any spread of the virus as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have confirmed that a strain of avian influenza had been found in birds at a single premises in the Great Barrow area, near Mouldsworth.

Avian influenza is a disease which mainly affects birds, but on rare occasions, can affect mammals including humans.

Consequently, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), Defra, APHA and the UK Health Security agency (UKHSA) are putting several measures in place to help prevent this from happening. This will include a 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone.

CWaC is reassuring residents that the risk to the public remains very low.

The zones restrict access to locations where birds are kept and impose restrictions on the movement of birds. They do not limit access to residents or business owners.

Further details on the zones can be found on the government website. The protection and surveillance zones are now in place until they are withdrawn or amended by Defra.

Ian Ashworth, Director of Public Health for Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "The risk to public health is very low so residents do not need to be alarmed by this development. It is important, however, that people do not pick up sick or dead birds as this can spread the virus.

“If you do find any distressed swans, geese, ducks or other dead wild birds while out and about, please report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

“I am also urging bird keepers to keep an eye out for any signs of disease. You must report suspected cases to the nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency office by calling 03000 200 301.”

People in direct contact with the premises have been contacted and offered appropriate support.

Avian Influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. However, anyone who is concerned should call NHS 111 or speak to their GP.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) is currently in place cross the whole of Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds. That means it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks.

Keepers with more than 500 birds now need 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 cleaned 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.

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) means bird keepers must:

  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry;
  • 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 their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
  • Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures;
  • Cleanse 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;
  • Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances, e.g. zoo birds).

Avian influenza is in no way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is not carried in poultry.