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Bird flu identified in Suffolk

27,000 chickens will be culled at a commercial chicken farm in Mid Suffolk where disease identified

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

27,000 chickens will be culled at a commercial chicken farm in Mid Suffolk after infection of some birds with low pathogenic avian flu of the H5 strain was confirmed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

All the birds will be culled and a 1km restriction zone around the infected farm has been put in place to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The advice from Public Health England (PHE) is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, public health consultant at PHE, said: “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.”

A detailed investigation is in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

Chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “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.”

While there have been sporadic outbreaks of avian flu in various parts of the UK in recent years, said Professor Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology, University of Nottingham, usually these have been influenza strains that are deemed to be low pathogenic viruses, as is the case here.

“Whilst in other parts of the world we have seen cases of so-called ‘bird-flu’ strains jumping into humans, this is a rare event and hasn’t been seen in the UK, so the risk to human health is very low,” he said.

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