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Farmers on bird flu alert but poultry chiefs say Christmas turkeys not at risk

Health | Published:

The British Poultry Council said it is working closely with Defra to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

A brood of hens

Poultry farmers have been urged to remain alert for signs of bird flu following a confirmed case in Suffolk but Christmas turkey supplies are unaffected, industry leaders have said.

All 27,000 birds at the commercial chicken farm will be culled after a number were found to have the H5 strain of avian flu, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said on Tuesday.

The strain has been identified as “low pathogenic avian flu”.

Public Health England has said the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said food safety is not at risk.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) said it was working closely with Defra to monitor and limit the risk of the disease spreading.

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 biosecurity on their premises, remain alert for any signs and report suspected disease immediately.”

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A BPC spokeswoman added: “There is no link whatsoever to the Christmas turkey market. It is unaffected by this case.

“This is a specific farm in Suffolk and the birds are being culled.”

National Farmers Union chief poultry adviser Gary Ford said: “This confirmation of avian influenza is devastating news for the farm affected. However, Defra’s prompt action has helped limit the risk of the disease spreading, and provided that it’s contained to one site will have very little impact on the wider poultry industry.

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“It is imperative that all poultry keepers, including small backyard flocks, remain vigilant at this time and report any sign of disease immediately, as well as maintaining good biosecurity measures.”

A one-kilometre exclusion zone has been set up around the farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

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.”

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.”

A detailed investigation is under way to determine the most likely source of the outbreak.

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