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His Majesty The King to congratulate APHA staff for efforts combatting avian influenza

His Majesty The King will visit the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Weybridge to thank staff for their work.

  • His Majesty The King will visit the Animal and Plant Health Agency today in Weybridge.
  • Staff and scientists to be congratulated for their work combatting the avian influenza outbreak in the UK and support with Ukrainian refugee pet travel.
  • Weybridge is renowned for its specialist research and laboratory facilities, and its world-leading animal and plant health science and disease control capabilities.

His Majesty The King will today (Thursday 9th March) visit the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) in Weybridge to congratulate scientists and staff for their work in combating the largest-ever avian influenza outbreak in the UK.

There have been over 330 cases of avian influenza confirmed across the country since October 2021.

APHA’s world-leading scientists and staff have played vital role in supporting avian influenza diagnostics and disease control. Their work to tackle the outbreak helps protect animal and public health but also supports our international trading relationships.

His Majesty The King will undertake a full tour which will involve briefings on some of most difficult animal health diseases the world faces including avian influenza and bovine TB as well as plant health challenges including invasive non-native species. He will visit dedicated specialist research laboratories to see genome mapping and a mosquito laboratory where he will learn about APHA’s vector-borne disease (VBD) programme.

Ahead of attending the visit, Lord Benyon, Minister for Biosecurity, Marine and Rural Affairs, said:

“The Animal and Plant Health Agency has a long-standing reputation for excellence in the field of biosecurity and the work it does to protect the UK from animal diseases, which in turn supports our economy and food security.

“I’m pleased we can use today to showcase our specialist world leading facilities.”

Also ahead of attending the visit, Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said:

“Today’s visit really is about recognising the last 18 months of remarkable work and the APHA staff who have worked day in and day out to help control and manage the spread of avian influenza.

“The scale of avian influenza outbreaks across the UK and Europe has been unprecedented and our response has been underpinned by the world-leading science and disease control work carried out at Weybridge.”

David Holdsworth, Chief Executive Officer of APHA, said:

“APHA staff work tirelessly day in day out to protect the UK, its people and economy from the growing biosecurity threats we face. They have faced a relentless battle against Avian Influenza over the last two years. So I am pleased to welcome His Majesty The King to Weybridge to meet with APHA staff from Scotland, Wales and England and see first-hand the incredible work they do.

“I am proud to showcase our world-leading scientists, field teams and staff and the role they play in protecting the country.”

The Government is committed to the strongest possible standards of protection against animal diseases and is investing in the long-term future of the Weybridge facility, including £1.4bn of funding for the Science Capability in Animal Health Programme. The investment is in recognition of the vital work APHA does to contribute to our economic and food security.

Alongside the Government’s continued investment in the Avian Influenza National Reference Laboratory and APHA’s Weybridge site, Defra and the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC) fund an eight-strong consortium ‘FluMap’ led by APHA that received £1.5 million in funding to develop new strategies to tackle avian influenza outbreaks.

His Majesty The King will also meet APHA staff who were instrumental in helping those fleeing from Ukraine to safely bring their pets into the UK. APHA staff worked tirelessly to enable Ukrainians to bring much loved family pets with them to the UK while keeping the country safe from diseases such as rabies.

The UK has some of the highest biosecurity standards in the world. We have taken swift action to protect poultry from the threat of avian influenza. Avian Influenza Prevention Zones (AIPZs) are in force across the UK with additional mandatory housing measures in force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These enhanced biosecurity measures which apply to all bird keepers have been vital in successfully protecting flocks across the country from avian influenza.

Notes to Editors:

  • For any interview bids for Lord Benyon, CVO Christine Middlemiss and David Holdsworth, Chief Executive Officer APHA please get in touch with Defra press office.
  • The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and also works on behalf of the Scottish Government and Welsh Government.
  • You can read more about APHA’s responsibilities here.


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