Avian influenza infected premises sign © Jason Bye/Rex Shutterstock

Costs linked to the three individual outbreaks of avian influenza (AI) affecting the UK in the past 12 months are now estimated at more than £50m.

Delegates at the inaugural UK Poultry Health and Welfare Group (PHWG) AI roadshow in Perth, Scotland, were told that the figure took into account lost exports and displaced products for the poultrymeat industry.

Dan Pearson, veterinary health director at Aviagen (Europe) told the 100 delegates there was a constant risk of low-pathogenic AI (LPAI), as it was now endemic in the wild bird population.

See also: Bird flu: biosecurity advice from US

He added: “The cost of an outbreak both to individual businesses and to the UK as a whole can be a significant figure.

“While the [infected premises] faces the costs of secondary cleaning and disinfection, loss of birds and business interruptions, there’s also restrictions placed on the country under [World Organisation for Animal Health] regulations which affects the ability to export.”

Daniel Dring, PD Hook Group poultry welfare officer, urged poultry farmers to build a contingency plan for their businesses.

He said: “You shouldn’t underestimate the cost of an outbreak. It can be anywhere from £500,000 to £10m.

“You, as the producer, pick up the cost for secondary cleansing and disinfection and face not being able to operate for a significant period of time.”

“You shouldn’t underestimate the cost of an outbreak. It can be anywhere from £500,000 to £10m”
Daniel Dring, PD Hook Group

The PHWG is developing a standard operating procedure for secondary cleansing and disinfection looking at a number of scenarios and production methods.

Dr Barry Thorp, from St David’s poultry team, urged producers to think about their own situations and identify how they could protect their flocks with effective biosecurity.

Dr Thorp said: “Investment in biosecurity makes economic sense based on risk assessment.”

Dr Michael Park, veterinary head of exotics and welfare for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), stressed the importance of all keepers of poultry to make sure they were on the poultry register, maintaining good biosecurity and keeping good records.

“It is vital that all keepers of poultry are registered so that we can ensure we minimise the risk and impact to businesses during an outbreak by being able to contact those in the affected protection and surveillance zones,” Dr Park added.

Scottish chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas welcomed the meetings across the UK.

“AI is an issue that affects us all, across all poultry species. These roadshows are a great opportunity to raise awareness to prepare poultry farmers and also to get to know their local APHA representatives.”

There are still places available at six of the remaining nine roadshows, with the East Anglia, Lincolnshire and York events fully booked.

The avian flu roadshow registration form can be found online.