Avian flu outbreak confirmed in Suffolk

An outbreak of H5 low pathogenic avian flu was confirmed on a commercial chicken farm in mid-Suffolk last night (10 December).

An outbreak of H5 low pathogenic avian flu was confirmed on a commercial chicken farm in mid-Suffolk last night (10 December).

It is the first confirmed case of avian influenza in the UK since June 2017, and the first case of low pathogenic avian flu since January 2016.

All 27,000 birds will now be humanely culled and Defra has placed a 1km restriction zone around the infected farm (not pictured), to reduce the risk of disease spreading.

The case was picked up by a private veterinary surgeon who was investigating a drop in egg production in the flock.

An investigation is underway to determine the source of the 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.”

Public Health England said the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency made it clear that the virus does not affect food safety for UK consumers, and thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products are safe to eat.

Public health consultant Dr Gavin Dabrera, of Public Health England, said health advice and antivirals are being offered to those who had contact with the affected birds, as part of standard precautions.

Typical signs for poultry keepers to look out for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of the neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – but clinical signs vary between species of bird.

Any suspected cases of bird flu must be reported immediately to the Defra Rural Services Helpline – 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268, and in Scotland contact your local Field Services Office.

Further information on biosecurity and clinical signs, as well as the current restriction measures in place, is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

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