Moves to clamp down on bird flu

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Efforts to contain an outbreak of bird flu in Britain will continue today as government vets investigate if it is linked to a similar case in the Netherlands.

The European Commission backed emergency measures to contain outbreaks of bird flu in both countries after Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that a virus found at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire was the “highly pathogenic” H5 strain of avian flu .

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned after an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu strain was confirmed at a chicken farm in the central province of Utrecht.

Neither outbreak involved the H5N1 version of the virus which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

Ms Truss said t he chief medical officer and Public Health England confirmed the risk to public health of the virus was very low, although experts have warned of further cases.

Ms Truss said: “The Food Standards Agency have said it does not pose a risk for food safety for UK consumers. The chicken and turkey people eat continues to be safe.”

A European Commission spokesman said in a statement: “The measures aim at quickly bringing the disease under control and at preventing the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza within the affected member states, to other member states and to third countries while minimising the disturbance to trade.

“The measures include the culling of the poultry on the affected holding, the establishment of protection and surveillance zones, the introduction of sanitary measures (cleaning and disinfection), the prohibition of movements to sell live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and other poultry products to other EU countries and non-EU countries and the culling of affected flocks only in the restricted zones.

“The Commission is also informing other EU member states and non-EU countries, as well as international organisations, about the disease situation and on the measures taken.”

A private vet raised the alarm at the duck farm in Nafferton, near Driffield in East Yorkshire, on Friday and s ubsequent tests by Government vets confirmed the H5 strain.

A 10km (six-mile) restriction zone has been put in place and all poultry on the farm is being culled in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.

“We have taken immediate and robust action to control this outbreak and prevent any potential spread of infection,” Ms Truss added.

But experts warn there may be more cases of bird flu emerging in the coming days.

It is the first serious case of bird flu since 2008, when the H7N7 strand was found in free-range laying hens near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Most types of bird flu are harmless to humans but two types – H5N1 and H7N9 – have caused serious concerns.

Officials believe the outbreak may be linked to Germany and the Netherlands.

Dutch authorities first reported the outbreak of bird flu at a chicken farm in Hekendorp and H5N8 bird flu was confirmed yesterday.

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said the British farm at the centre of the alert, where farm workers dressed in blue protective overalls and face masks could be seen entering and leaving six low sheds containing ducks, had good bio-security in place.

As a result, the risk of spread is “probably quite low”, he said, but warned more cases could follow and, because of the risk of wild birds spreading the disease, urged farmers and their vets all over the country to be alert to the possibility of disease.

Keith Warner, president of the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA), also said that while previous outbreaks of bird flu had been effectively controlled on one or two isolated farms, there could be more incidents in the latest outbreak.

“Everybody in the UK that owns birds in any number should be on biosecurity lockdown,” he urged, advising no unnecessary visits to farms, transport or sharing of equipment, and that all free-range birds in the 10km zone should be kept inside.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on the poultry industry in the run-up to Christmas.

Chris Dickinson, NFU county adviser for Yorkshire, said: “It is obviously a worry for poultry farmers but I just ask farmers to keep up high levels of biosecurity and Defra will inform us of their findings in the coming days.

“It is a busy time coming up for poultry farmers but poultry isn’t just for Christmas, it’s a big industry all the year round.”

British Poultry Council chief executive Andrew Large said: “Consumers should continue to support British poultry meat, assured that there is no risk in eating cooked poultry, and that is a message echoed by the Food Standards Agency and the World Health Organisation.”

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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