Scottish bird flu restrictions to remain in place
Restrictions placed on bird keepers to prevent the spread of bird flu will remain in place until the end of April, the Scottish government has said.
Poultry and captive birds must be housed indoors until 28 February but can be let outside after that providing "enhanced biosecurity" is put in place.
The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared in December.
It followed an outbreak of bird flu among turkeys at a farm in Lincolnshire.
More than 5,000 birds at the farm in Louth were diagnosed with the H5N8 strain of avian flu.
The disease has also caused the deaths of wild birds and poultry in 14 European countries.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the prevention zone, which is designed to minimise the risk of infection from wild birds, would continue to apply to the whole of Scotland, with no targeting of specific areas.
The minister said all keepers must keep their birds indoors until 28 February, or take "appropriate practical steps" to keep them separate from wild birds.
After that, the birds can be let out doors provided certain measures are put in place. These include:
- Making sure that birds' feed and water cannot be accessed by wild birds
- Avoiding transfer of contamination between premises by cleansing and disinfecting equipment, vehicles and footwear
- Reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept
- Implementing effective vermin control around buildings where poultry or captive birds are kept
- Providing wash facilities or dips containing approved disinfectant at key points
There have been no known cases of bird flu in domestic poultry or captive birds in Scotland, but several have been confirmed in England and Wales.
A UK-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings remains in force.
Mr Ewing said: "We continue to see daily reports of avian flu across Europe, including eight confirmed cases in domestic birds in England and Wales, with Northern Ireland recently confirming their first finding in a wild bird, too.
"We do not expect the risk of H5N8 to reduce any time soon, which is why we are extending the prevention zone until the end of April."
Mr Ewing also said the Scottish government would work to minimise the economic impact of the prevention zone on Scotland's free range poultry industry.
Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: "The risk level from highly pathogenic avian influenza remains at 'high' for wild birds, and 'low to medium' for domestic birds.
"It is essential that keepers continue to ensure that their birds are protected from infection by practicing the highest levels of biosecurity."
She added: "Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low."