EMERGENCY measures to halt the spread of bird flu are to stay in place until the end of April.

Welsh Government rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths has announced a new avian influenza prevention zone, which will be in place from February 28, when the current one was due to expire, until April 30.

There will also be some important changes to the measures the new all-Wales prevention zone.

The current prevention zone requires all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to keep their birds indoors or take all appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds, and to enhance biosecurity. This follows a number of confirmed cases of avian flu across the UK, including in a backyard flock of chicken and ducks near Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire.

Expert advice suggests it is unlikely the current level of risk will change before the current prevention zone is scheduled to end and following consultation with industry and veterinary representatives, it is being extended.

The new zone requires all keepers to complete a self-assessment of biosecurity measures on their premises. The objective is to keep domestic flocks totally separate from wild birds by continuing to keep birds housed or using other measures.

Ms Griffiths said: “My decision is based on sound expert and industry advice.

“The risk of infection from wild birds is unlikely to decrease in the coming weeks. The changes I am announcing today are proportionate and place the onus on the keeper to select the best option for their circumstances to protect their birds. They must, however, ensure compliance with the additional risk mitigation measures.”

Chief veterinary officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop added: “Keepers of poultry and other captive birds must remain vigilant for signs of disease. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease, and any suspicion should be reported immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Keepers should practice the highest levels of biosecurity if they are to minimise the risk of infection.

“I continue to strongly encourage all poultry keepers, even those with fewer than 50 birds, to provide their details to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.”

Information on the requirements of the avian influenza prevention zone, guidance and latest developments are all available on the Welsh Government website.