ALL poultry and captive birds must be housed from next week under new rules following a national increase in cases of bird flu, including two cases in Dorset.

As previously reported, last month a goose tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of avian flu in Weymouth. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) also confirmed that a swan tested positive for the same strain in Poole, although it is not yet known whether the strain is highly infectious.

The new rules, which have been issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), come into force on December 14 and bird keepers are encouraged to take steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and where necessary to put additional housing.

Additional biosecurity measures are also being recommended for bird keepers, including housing or netting all poultry and captive birds, cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear and vehicles after contact with poultry and captive birds, and minimise direct contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.

A spokesman for Dorset Council said: "Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns."

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.