CUMBRIAN poultry keepers are being warned that all signs point to the threat of another deadly bird flu outbreak this winter.

As three cases of bird flu have been confirmed in England local and government vets are urging poultry keepers to be vigilant.

Two separate, unrelated cases in kept poultry and birds were confirmed in England last week and a third case of H5N8 avian flu in captive birds was confirmed on November 11 at a broiler breeder farm in Herefordshire.

A small number of wild birds in South West of England have also been found to have had the disease.

This led on Thursday to an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) being declared across the whole of England to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading. This means it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

It follows the risk level of avian influenza incursion in wild birds in great Britain being raised from 'medium' to 'high'.

David McCrea, a director at Capontree Veterinary Practice in Brampton, said: "This means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures. Keepers with more than 500 birds will 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.

He added: "Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese are also urged to strengthen their biosecurity measures in order to prevent further outbreaks of avian influenza in the UK."

Anne Abbs, a vet with Paragon Veterinary Practice in Dalston and Penrith, said: "All poultry owners in Cumbria, but particularly those on the coast and near lakes, should be aware of the APHA guidance to protect their flocks. Even ‘backyard’ poultry owners can do their bit to protect the national flock by trying to feed their birds in a covered area and remove uneaten/spilled food to deter wild birds and keeping ducks and geese separate from other poultry.

If you find dead wild waterfowl, or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77).