Avian influenza confirmed in the UK

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Avian influenza confirmed in the UK

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An incident of low pathogenic avian flu of the H5 strain has been confirmed at a commercial chicken farm in England, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

All 27,000 birds on the farm in Mid-Suffolk will be humanely culled and a 1km restriction zone around the infected farm has been put in place to limit the risk of the disease spreading. An investigation is in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is a less serious strain of H5 avian influenza. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The last confirmed case of LPAI in the UK was in Dunfermline in January 2016.

Since June 2017, there have been no detections of avian influenza in poultry or kept birds in the UK. The UK has retained its OIE country freedom status since September 2017.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Low Pathogenic Avian flu has been confirmed on a commercial chicken farm in Suffolk. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and 27,000 poultry at the farm will be culled.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises. We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this strain to control and eliminate it.”

Dr Gavin Dabrera, public health consultant at Public Health England, added: “Avian flu (often called bird flu) is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. As a precaution, we are offering public health advice and antivirals to those who had contact with the affected birds, as is standard practice.”

British Poultry Council (BPC) chief executive Richard Griffiths said: "The health of our birds remains the priority for BPC member businesses up and down the country. I would like to urge all commercial and non-commercial producers to maintain effective bio-security on their premises, remain alert for any signs and report suspected disease immediately.” 

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