The King will Visit the Animal and Plant Health Agency

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King Charles III meets members of the public during a visit to Luton Town Hall to meet community leaders and voluntary organisations. December 6, 2022.
King Charles III meets members of the public during a visit to Luton Town Hall to meet community leaders and voluntary organisations. December 6, 2022.

HIS MAJESTY THE KING WILL VISIT THE ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH AGENCY, WEYBRIDGE

Thursday 9th March 2023

The King will hear about the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) remarkable work in protecting animal, plant and bee health as well as reducing the risk of new and emerging threats. His Majesty The King will congratulate the APHA in combatting the largest ever Avian Influenza outbreak in the UK.

At the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Weybridge, His Majesty The King will meet 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 will be joined by the Minister of State for Biosecurity, Marine and Rural Affairs, The Lord Benyon, in receiving a briefing from the Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Christine Middlemiss and APHA Director of Science, Professor Ian Brown on the largest outbreak of Avian Influenza in the UK. Since the start of the outbreak in October 2021, 332 cases of Avian Influenza 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.

In the Genome Mapping Laboratory, the King will be briefed on Genome mapping by Head of Genome Analysis, Dr Richard Ellis. 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.

His Majesty will also hear from DEFRA’s Director of Animal and Plant Health and Welfare, Gareth Baynham-Hughes and Lead Scientist, Dr Phil Hogarth, on their work towards the eradication of bovine TB in England. After which, His Majesty will join the Head of Vector-Borne Disease Dr Nicholas Johnson and Virology Scientist Dr Karen Mansfield for 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. His Majesty will also have an opportunity to look at a mosquito through a microscope.

In the library of the Weybourne building, His Majesty will be introduced to Director of Services, Plant & Tree Health, Nicola Hirst, whose team work to protect food security which has an estimated value to the UK economy of £15.7billion. APHA also protect the nation’s plants from notifiable and emerging pests and diseases.

Before departing, His Majesty will be introduced to front-line staff and scientists from across APHA in the atrium including those joining virtually from across England, Scotland and Wales and staff involved in the Ukrainian Pets Emergency Response Team. As the Ukrainian/Russian conflict escalated, a new entry-licensing system was rapidly introduced to allow pets from Ukraine to swiftly join their owners from Ukraine who had settled in the UK after Russia’s invasion of their home.

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