Animal and Plant Health Agency experts revealed that the risk of UK flocks being affected by the disease, which can cause severe losses in poultry species, had risen from ‘low’ to ‘medium’.
Newcastle Disease is caused by a virulent strain of paramyxovirus and can be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected birds.
The government has issued the following precautions for poultry-keepers to minimise the risks:
- Birds need to be vaccinated against the disease
- Use disinfectant foot baths and reduce visitors to the birds
- Clean vehicles, equipment, clothing, boots that have been in contact with the birds
- Feeding and watering should be under cover and kept away from wild birds
- Wash hands with soap and water after handling birds
The government has urged poultry-keepers to remain cautious and look out for symptoms in their birds, such as respiratory distress, nervous behaviour and lack of appetite.
If poultry farmers were suspicious that their flock had contracted the disease, then the government said they should contact a private vet and the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately.
“I urge all poultry-keepers – whether of commercial, smallholder flocks or specialist breeds or pet chickens – to remain vigilant to the clinical signs of this disease, and urge them to put in place strong biosecurity measures to ensure the health and welfare of their birds,” said the UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss.
Public Health England has advised that the risk of Newcastle Disease affecting people is very low.