At the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Weybridge, His Majesty The King met staff and scientists to hear about their extraordinary efforts to safeguard animal and plant health, control and eradicate animal and plant diseases, and reduce the risks of new and emerging threats in the UK.
With work spanning across England, Scotland, and Wales, APHA is an agency within the UK Government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which was established on 1st October 2014 with the purpose of safeguarding animal and plant health for the benefit of people, the environment, and the economy.
During the visit, His Majesty was joined by the Minister of State for Biosecurity, Marine and Rural Affairs The Lord Benyon to receive a briefing on the largest outbreak of Avian Influenza in the UK. Since the start of the outbreak in October 2021, 332 cases of Avian Influence have been confirmed in poultry and other captive birds in the UK. Occurring simultaneously with the COVID-19 pandemic, APHA staff worked tirelessly to tackle the outbreak as quickly as possible while also protecting public health.
The King also learnt about Genome mapping during his visit. Technological advancements have allowed APHA to embed whole genome sequences into its surveillance of infectious diseases to understand viruses and the bacteria responsible. This data allows APHA to understand the transmission between wildlife, domestic flocks and poultry farms which can help develop methods to reduce and eventually eradicate diseases.
DEFRA’s Director of Animal and Plant Health and Welfare and Lead Scientist, Dr Phil Hogarth told Their Majesty about their work towards the eradication of bovine TB in England. After which, His Majesty joined a discussion on how climate change across Europe can increase the risk of mosquito-borne viruses in the UK and efforts taken by APHA to prepare for this.
Before departing, His Majesty was introduced to front-line staff and scientists from across APHA, including those joining virtually from across England, Scotland and Wales and staff involved in the Ukrainian Pets Emergency Response Team. As the conflict in Ukraine escalated, a new entry-licensing system was rapidly introduced to allow pets from Ukraine to swiftly join their owners who had settled in the UK after the