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Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease. It affects the respiratory, digestive or nervous system of many species of birds.

First published:
6 December 2018
Last updated:

Latest information

As of 16 February 2024, gatherings of all poultry and captive birds are permitted, except for Anseriforme birds (ducks, geese, swans), provided you:

  • meet the requirements of the poultry gathering general licence or the captive bird gathering general licence 
  • notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) of the gathering at least 7 days before the event

You can find out more in the general licence documents:

These remain under constant review.

The avian influenza prevention zone is no longer in place, as of 4 July, 2023. 

Bird keepers are advised to continue to complete the biosecurity self-assessment checklist. Scrupulous biosecurity is the most effective method of disease control available. Whilst the risk to kept birds has reduced, all bird keepers should still follow enhanced biosecurity measures at all times to prevent the risk of future outbreaks. Follow our biosecurity and preventing disease in captive birds guidance.

View the current avian influenza restrictions.

Report a suspicion

Contact your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately on 0300 303 8268 if you suspect avian influenza.

APHA vets will investigate suspected cases.

Clinical signs

The following clinical signs may be present:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of the neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as: gaping beak, coughing/sneezing, gurgling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

Transmission and prevention

Although Avian influenza is a disease of birds, in rare cases humans can become infected. Some strains of Avian influenza can spread easily and quickly between birds and have a high death rate.

All bird keepers must:

  • continue to practice the highest levels of biosecurity
  • be vigilant for any signs of disease

You should register your poultry (on, even if only kept as pets, so APHA can contact you during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds.

Biosecurity advice

All bird keepers are urged to maintain high levels of biosecurity; whether you have a few pet birds, or if you have a large commercial flock.

To ensure high levels of biosecurity, all poultry keepers should:

  • minimise movement of people in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean and disinfect footwear using a government approved disinfectant, and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy
  • ensure the areas where birds are kept are not attractive to wild birds, for example, by netting ponds and by removing access to food sources
  • keep your birds separate to and without access to areas where especially geese, ducks and gulls are present
  • feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry, and reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet or APHA

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus

The risk of HPAI virus (bird flu) increases during the winter. Migratory waterfowl and gulls are the most likely cause of HPAI incursion. (Migratory wildfowl include ducks, geese and swans.) This is based on experience over the last two winters. Along with with scientific and veterinary opinion.