Poultry farmers and bird keeps are being ordered to follow strict regulations to prevent bird flu.

The government introduced the measures to stop the flu breaking out among birds in the UK.

The illness is a big problem for birds and can be a problematic health condition for humans, but health agencies insist that the risk for the general public is very low.

"Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat," the government said.

The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales said: "The UK health agencies have confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and UK food standards agencies advise that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers."

So what are the symptoms and why are farmers and the government's rural affairs department so worries?

Why are bird keepers worried about bird flu?

Symptoms of bird flu in birds can be very problematic.

The Scottish government explains: "Typically this form of the disease presents suddenly, often with very high mortality, with affected birds developing swollen heads, a blue colouration of the comb and wattles, dullness, lack of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and significant drop in egg production."

The measures, set out by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) make it "a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict bio security measures to help protect their flocks."

The rules were put in place from 5pm on 3 November.

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DEFRA said: "Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading."

Symptoms of bird flu – the virus in the UK

Although a rare occurrence, the grim virus can be caught by humans. The NHS lists the following as the symptoms of bird flu:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough or shortness of breath
  • diarrhoea
  • sickness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

Again, it really must be stressed that your risks of catching the virus is extremely low.

So low that the NHS says of the four strains of the virus that are of concern have never affected anyone in the UK.

People who have caught the virus are thought to have done so by touching infected birds, touching their droppings or bedding, or killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking.

If you have recently travelled to a country where there was an outbreak of bird flu, then you should avoid places like livestock markets.

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