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Everything we know about the Suffolk bird flu outbreak

PUBLISHED: 08:34 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:56 11 December 2019

Bird flu has been detected in Mid Suffolk. File photo. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Bird flu has been detected in Mid Suffolk. File photo. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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A one-kilometre restriction zone is in place around a farm in Athelington, mid Suffolk, after a strain of bird flu was detected.

The restriction zone around a Suffolk farm after an outbreak of bird flu was detected with 27,000 poultry set to be culled. Picture: OS DATAThe restriction zone around a Suffolk farm after an outbreak of bird flu was detected with 27,000 poultry set to be culled. Picture: OS DATA

According to an official Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) document, the exclusion zone is in place around Homefield Farm in Athelington, near Eye.

An H5 strain of low pathogenic avian flu was identified on a commercial farm site last night.

Public Health England (PHE) said the risk to public health is "very low".

What is the latest situation?

Security at the entrance to Homefield Farm at Athelington, near Eye. Picture: Simon ParkinSecurity at the entrance to Homefield Farm at Athelington, near Eye. Picture: Simon Parkin

Low pathogenic avian influenza of the H5 strain was confirmed at a commercial chicken farm in Mid Suffolk on December 10.

All birds on the premises will be humanely culled.

A restricted zone of 1km is in place around the infected premises as specified in the declaration applying these restrictions.

Defra's interactive map will help you find out if you live within the restricted zone.

All 27,000 chickens on a farm in Suffolk will have to be culled after a bird flu outbreak was discovered Picture: THEGREENJAll 27,000 chickens on a farm in Suffolk will have to be culled after a bird flu outbreak was discovered Picture: THEGREENJ

Within this restricted zone a variety of different controls are in place to prevent the spread of disease.

These include restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

Poultry keepers in the restricted zone can now apply for movement licences for some specific movements from the zone.

There are also restrictions on bird gatherings (fairs, shows, exhibitions) and the release of game birds.

Homefield Farm at Athelington, near Eye. Picture: Simon ParkinHomefield Farm at Athelington, near Eye. Picture: Simon Parkin

How is the outbreak being tackled and will it affect me?

Defra is taking "immediate and robust action" and an investigation is underway to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

Public Health England has advised that the risk to public health from this strain is very low.

The Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Anyone who finds dead wild birds should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (select option 7).

Will Christmas turkeys be affected?

Poultry farmers have been urged to remain alert for signs of bird flu but Christmas turkey supplies are unaffected, according to industry leaders.

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."

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."

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.

What have experts said?

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss added: "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."

Brian Finnerty, of the East Anglia branch of the National Farmer's Union, said bird flu can quickly be brought under control.

"From the NFU's perspective, poultry farmers will understandably be concerned to hear this news but we know from previous experience of bird flu outbreaks in East Anglia that it can quickly be brought under control and eliminated," he said.

"This is a low path case of avian influenza - Defra has instigated a 1km restriction zone around the farm and all poultry on the farm is being culled to prevent any potential spread of infection. A detailed investigation is ongoing as well.

"It's important that all poultry farmers review their biosecurity and to call their vet immediately if birds show signs of this disease.

"The poultry sector is extremely important in East Anglia - poultry meat was worth £1billion in 2017 and a quarter of England's table chicken is produced in our region."

The quarantine zone is right in the middle of two sites where there are plans for two massive poultry farms - Southolt and Horham.

For more information, read DEFRA's guide to avian influenza.


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