Avian Influenza

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered am ar 3 Mai 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether her Department is taking steps to increase (a) laboratory and (b) research capacity for monitoring avian influenza in wild birds.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the oral evidence of her Department's Chief Veterinary Officer to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on avian influenza on 29 November 2022, HC 890, at Question 88, if she will make it her policy to increase funding to the Animal and Plant Health Agency to establish a system for testing wild birds for avian influenza and monitoring the spread of the virus.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra’s approach to avian influenza in wild birds continues to be led by international best practice and the latest evidence. We are doing all we can to tackle the impact of avian influenza in wild birds, with year-round surveillance, a new research consortium ‘FluMap’ – backed by £1.5m in research funding – to develop new strategies to tackle avian influenza outbreaks, and working closely and meeting regularly with conservation charities, including the WWT, National Trust and RSPB, to consider any further action we can take.  We are working with Natural England as well as key external organisations to develop and implement appropriate actions to support the recovery of vulnerable bird populations in England.

Defra fund the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to undertake year-round surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds across Great Britain. To support government’s response to the outbreak and APHA’s surveillance programme, in December 2022 Defra launched a new online reporting system, this service is available together with the Defra helpline 24/7, making it simpler and quicker for the public to report dead wild birds.

Avian influenza is a Specified Animal Pathogen under The Specified Animal Pathogens Order 2008 (as amended) (SAPO) and is classified by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) in relation to the approved classification of biological agents and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH). As such diagnostic testing with potentially infectious material must be conducted in high containment. All diagnostic testing in relation to the Notifiable Avian Disease Control Strategy for Great Britain including APHA’s surveillance in wild birds are therefore carried out at the avian influenza National Reference Laboratory (NRL) at the APHA Weybridge laboratory using United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) validated tests and in line with World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) standards as set out for Avian Influenza in the WOAH Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals. Capacity at the NRL is adjusted in line with the demands of the outbreak.

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