Avian influenza suspected in Scotland

Poultry producers in Scotland have been warned by the Scottish government to ‘stay vigilant’ following a suspected case of avian influenza (AI) in Fife. 

The suspected case has been identified in chickens on a Dunfermline farm.

Preliminary testing revealed that a notifiable strain of AI (H5) had been found on the birds. It has been suggested that this is a low pathogenic strain, with further testing under way.

“We have taken immediate action to contain this case as part of our robust procedures for dealing swiftly with avian flu,” said Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas.

To prevent further spread of the disease, appropriate restrictions have been enforced on the suspected premises and any identified contact premises.

“Evidence suggests this is a low severity form of the virus. However, we are taking action to ensure the disease does not spread or develop into a more severe form,” added Voas.

“I would urge poultry-keepers in the surrounding area to be vigilant for any signs of disease and to ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

The suspected affected birds will be humanely culled, with a 1km Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) put around the farm.

A variety of different controls have been implemented, including restricting the movement of poultry, carcases, eggs, used poultry litter and manure, as well as restrictions on bird gatherings.

Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, commented that the authorities were taking the correct procedures to contain further spread: “Livestock owners and the general public should be assured that we are doing everything we can to control and prevent the spread of the disease. Any poultry producers who are concerned should immediately seek veterinary advice.”

Within recent months, there have been a number of cases of avian influenza across Europe, with three in other parts of the UK last year.

“Based on what we know about this strain of avian influenza and the actions that have been taken, the risk to human health in this case in considered very low,” said Dr Jim McMenamin, consultant epidemiologist and respiratory infection lead for Health Protection Scotland.

“Health Protection Scotland continues to work closely with Animal Health throughout this investigation,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Rita Botto, head veterinarian of Food Standards Scotland, confirmed on the basis of current scientific evidence: “Bird flu does not pose a safety risk for UK consumers.”

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