The H5N8 bird flu is now present in wild birds in Belgium, and from Sunday 15 November, not only professional poultry farmers, but also private individuals will have to confine or protect their birds, according to Federal Agriculture Minister David Clarinval.
Making the announcement on Saturday, the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety (Afsca) said, however, there was no risk to consumers. Poultry meat and eggs can be consumed safely.
The first cases of bird flu were detected in three birds in a revalidation centre for wild geese in Ostend, prompting Afsca to issue a warning in late October.
The measures apply to anyone with poultry or other birds, from pigeon lovers to individuals rearing chickens or persons keeping ornamental birds in their gardens. All are now required to cage their birds or protect them with nets.
The measures are aimed at avoiding contact with wild geese, which could transmit the virus.
Wherever possible, food and water troughs must be placed indoors. If that is not possible, they must be protected from outdoor passages with a net.
Currently, public markets, expositions, competitions, fairs and other places where birds could be brought together are temporarily banned as part of the measures against the new coronavirus. However, as soon as such events are allowed once more, stricter measures will take effect, Afsca said.
Anyone keeping poultry or other birds, whether privately or commercially, is required to contact their veterinary doctor immediately if they notice increased bird deaths or any other symptoms related to illness.
And anyone who finds a water bird dead in the wild is asked to call the free telephone number 0800/99.777, so that an investigation can be done quickly, and to avoid touching the bird so as not to spread the virus.