High alert on bird flu

After the first outbreak of avian influenza in the UK since 2008 and new cases confirmed in the Netherlands almost daily, the poultry industry remains on high alert. 

With the protection zone surrounding the Nafferton farm in East Yorkshire still in place, Defra is urging poultry farmers to remain vigilant.

Tests in the Netherlands have shown several cases of wild birds, most recently ducks, to be infected, highlighting possible spread of the disease.

“One way by which avian influenza may spread to poultry is through contact with infected wild birds. Contact may be direct through mingling, or indirect through faecal contamination of anything that may then come into contact with poultry, such as feed, water, utensils or clothing. Therefore, the risk of disease spread can be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds,” Defra advised.

An investigation is ongoing at Nafferton farm to decipher the source of the outbreak, but recent discoveries in wild, migrating birds could be the answer.

Defra has issued advice on safeguarding against infection, calling for all poultry birds, including free-range birds, to be kept separate from wild birds whenever possible.

However, Defra warned more precautions could impact the trade: “If it was considered necessary to reduce the risk of further spread of avian influenza, the government could declare a Prevention Zone in which a range of biosecurity measures would be required (including the housing of birds indoors as far as is practicable). This may be on nationwide, regional or area basis depending on an assessment of risk and the epidemiology of the spread of the disease. The government has not yet taken the decision to do this, but will keep this under active review.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine and the Caribbean island of St Lucia have announced a ban on importing British poultry meat.

The British Poultry Council tole Meatinfo.co.uk it was working closely with government to ensure the impact on exports is kept to a minimum.

Keep up to date with the latest from across Europe with this interactive timeline.

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