While the devastating impact of the disease has been well documented among wild birds – especially in seabird populations around Scotland, Wales and northern England – the figures seen by The Independent reveal the enormous toll the outbreak is taking on livestock.
To date, there have been 144 outbreaks across the country on commercial premises, with 120 outbreaks in England, 11 cases in Scotland, seven cases in Wales, and six cases in Northern Ireland.
Despite the millions of birds culled due to infection, the government said the numbers represent a small proportion of overall poultry production, which stands at around 20 million birds slaughtered a week.
The disease, known as highly pathogenic avian influenza, originated in intensively farmed poultry in China, but through wild populations of migrating birds, as well as global trade, the disease has spread to Europe and North America, having a significant impact on farms and local populations of birds.
The government said the risk of incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds is currently assessed as “medium” – meaning an event which occurs regularly.