• Disease threat is all-year-round
• Biosecurity must be maintained
• All holding sizes to take action
Poultry producers must learn to live with the risk of avian influenza, says an industry expert who has written a report outlining ways to combat the disease.
Strict biosecurity on all holdings and early detection of the disease must be a shared responsibility for poultry producers – irrespective of holding size or production system, says the study, published by the Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL).
Authored by Professor Lisa Boden and her team at Edinburgh University’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, the report identifies a number of knowledge gaps, and recommends future research priorities to help manage and prevent bird flu.
The UK experienced the worst outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in 2022 –both in terms of frequency and severity,said CIEL head of innovation Mark Young.
“It is now considered a year-round challenge. With the disease showing no signs of abating, it’s vital the industry considers how we can live with the risk of disease,” said Dr Young.
It was important to address industry challenges when dealing with the ongoing threat of bird flu, he added. This included possible prevention and control methods, and the role of science and innovation in helping to tackle the disease.
“There is a significant degree of variability in biosecurity implementation across the sector due to different perceptions of risk and awareness of the regulation and guidance available among all poultry keepers,” said Dr Young.
“For future containment of the disease, strict biosecurity is needed on all types of holding, and vigilance and early detection of the disease has to be a shared responsibility for poultry producers irrespective of holding size or production system.”
The report also highlights the importance of disease control policies being adaptable to new scientific evidence, alongside the need for trusted links between science, industry and policy to help improve the speed of decision making and subsequent actions.
“For a number of these recommendations to be implemented successfully there has to be improved communication and collaboration across the whole supply chain to ensure up-to-date information is disseminated to all those involved.”
CIEL director Phil Bicknell said the need for a clear and concise summary of the bird flu situation was a key factor in commissioning the report.
Government support would need to be enhanced to ensure that all outbreaks were handled promptly and competently, he added.
“Science and innovation were essential to how we successfully live with the risk of bird flu.
“Research into production systems, vaccine development, advances in genomic sequencing, and new technologies to support the rapid detection of the disease could all help manage this challenge.”