POULTRY keepers in Cumbria are urged to take urgent action now or risk losing their flocks to devastating bird flu.

The UK's chief veterinary officer has issued a plea urging poultry keepers to play their part in stopping the spread of bird flu.

The country faces its largest ever outbreak of the H5N1 virus - with over sixty cases confirmed since the start of November.

In the last few weeks Cumbria has seen two major outbreaks of the disease which led to thousands of birds being culled, and a significant number of dead wild birds discovered on the Solway coast which were described as likely casualties of the Avian Influenza outbreak.

UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss is today urging UK poultry keepers not to be complacent and to undertake the urgent biosecurity measures needed to help stop the spread of bird flu.

The Government introduced new housing measures last month which means that if you keep chickens, ducks, geese or any other birds you are now legally required to keep them indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures. If you do not do this, the disease could kill your birds and you could be fined.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months and other wildlife spread the disease so it is vital to not allow wild birds to mix with your chickens, ducks, geese or other birds.

People can also spread the disease on their clothes and shoes so before going into bird enclosures you should wash your hands, and change or clean and disinfect your footwear.

The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry or eggs.

Christine Middlemiss said:“We are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases both on commercial farms and in backyard birds right across the country. Many poultry keepers have excellent biosecurity standards but the number of cases we are seeing suggests that not enough is being done to keep bird flu out.”