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Pathogen Profile – Avian influenza

The UK’s largest-ever outbreak of Avian influenza threatens traditional Christmas celebrations for families throughout the UK this December, as many households face Christmas dinner without the traditional roast turkey.

The outbreak has already led to the death of 97 million birds globally (3.8 million in the UK), with significant consequences for agriculture and the environment. In response, the UK government has imposed mandatory housing for all poultry, amended its culling compensation scheme, and relaxed the sale regulations of defrosted poultry.

Since the 1st October 2022, there have been 139 confirmed cases of highly pathogenic Avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the United Kingdom, the vast majority of these are in England. Great Britain is an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ), which means by law, organisations must follow strict biosecurity rules to prevent bird flu and stop it from spreading.

On 31 October 2022, Dr. Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said: “We are now facing, this year, the largest ever outbreak of bird flu and are seeing rapid escalation in the number of cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across England.”

During an interview with the Financial Times in November 2022, Richard Griffiths, the Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council, stated that the UK has lost 40% of its free-range turkey flock.

Such a dramatic loss is likely to cause a lack of supply of UK free-range turkeys, and Mr Griffiths said that the cost to the industry was “potentially enormous”.

Virus characteristics

Bird flu viruses are classified into two broad categories, based on how pathogenic (disease-causing) they are: ‘low pathogenicity avian influenza and ‘high pathogenicity avian influenza. Most bird flu viruses are low pathogenic. In wild birds, they cause few, if any, symptoms. In domesticated birds, the symptoms are typically mild, including ruffled feathers and decreased egg production.

High pathogenic bird flu however is severe, lethal, and highly contagious, with strains able to kill 90–100% of a flock within 48 hours. In poultry, some low-pathogenic bird flu strains can mutate into high-pathogenic strains.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advise that bird flu is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low.

Managing an outbreak

The UK Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) controls cases of bird flu by following the:

Defra has set out practical information to support land managers, the public, and ornithological and environmental organisations in their response to the growing threat of bird flu.

By law, you must use a Defra-approved disinfectant when there is an outbreak of a notifiable disease.

The list of Defra-approved disinfectants will show you which product to use, and the concentration of the disinfectant you must use. Some products can be used at different concentrations for different diseases.

Exceptional antimicrobial efficacy

Byotrol plc is pleased to confirm that the following products, including its new range of ANIGENE surface disinfectant cleaners, have been rigorously tested and approved by Defra to Poultry Orders and appear on the list of Defra-approved disinfectants.

Byotrol Defra Approved Products – Poultry Orders
ANIGENE Professional Surface Disinfectant Cleaner – Un-fragranced
ANIGENE Professional Surface Disinfectant Cleaner – Dill
ANIGENE Professional Surface Disinfectant Cleaner – Citrus
ANIGENE NaDCC Effervescent Chlorine Tablets
ANIGENE HLD4ND High Level Disinfectant Cleaner


This is welcome news for Byotrol’s many customers in animal welfare, veterinary, and agriculture, who may be affected by the outbreak and in need of Defra-approved products to provide additional protection during the outbreak.

For more information on Byotrol products, please click here or contact us.