Highly pathogenic avian influenza in Great Britain: evaluation and future actions

Gannet colony, by Edmund Fellowes / BTO

Author(s): Defra Science Advisory Council

Published: March 2023  

Publisher: Defra

Journal: Defra Science Advisory Council Report

View on Defra website
This report documents the findings of an independent expert Scientific Advisory Group in highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAIG), working within Defra’s Science Advisory Council’s Exotic and Emerging Animal Diseases subgroup (SAC-ED). 

The group was commissioned by the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Professor Gideon Henderson in consultation with the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Dr Christine Middlemiss.

The HPAIG consisted of independent experts covering expertise in veterinary science, epidemiology and modelling, ecology, virology, ornithology, immunology and social science. Meetings were also attended by experts from Defra, with observers as well from the devolved nations, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Food Standards Agency (FSA), and United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), to provide input about data and the ongoing situation.

The HPAIG met together on three occasions in December 2022; smaller subgroups also met to address particular aspects of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) epidemic on several occasions between meetings. The HPAIG was tasked with addressing four key issues with regards to the current epidemic of HPAI in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales):

  1. the host range of the current virus and their potential roles
  2. the possibility of interventions to reduce impact on wild birds
  3. the potential to supplement current approaches to control with vaccination
  4. the potential to model the expected future trajectory of the outbreak

While Northern Ireland is also challenged by HPAI, it was not considered directly here. The remit of the HPAIG did not extend to consideration of the human health implications arising from HPAI. While no recommendations are made regarding human health, where appropriate, zoonotic risks are noted.

This report represents the consensus views of the HPAIG.

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