On 16 November Defra confirmed a case of avian flu (bird flu) in a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire. The strain has now been confirmed as H5N8.
The H5N8 strain of avian flu is a very low risk to public health and no risk to the food chain. Humane culling of 6,000 ducks is underway on the affected farm.
A protection zone (PZ) of 3km and surveillance zone (SZ) of 10km are in place around the infected premises
Within these control zones 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. There are also restrictions on bird gatherings (fairs, shows, exhibitions) and the release of game birds.
A detailed investigation into the possible source of the outbreak is underway, and a number of possibilities are being considered.
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas has said:
“Although the H5N8 avian influenza outbreak has been confirmed in East Yorkshire only, wild birds have not been ruled out as a possible source and so Scottish poultry producers should continue to maintain high levels of biosecurity and follow good practice to minimise unnecessary contact with wild birds.
“This includes, for example, making sure housing is bird proof; being extra vigilant in providing clean drinking water and food, preferably indoors, to prevent possible contamination; and following the existing good practice by quarantining new stock.
“Poultry keepers should also continue to ensure high standards of cleanliness: protective clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles should be disinfected before and after contact with poultry, and housing should be thoroughly cleansed and disinfected at the end of a cycle.
“And of course, as manure, slurry and other products can carry disease exposure should be minimised by limiting wherever possible the access of people, vehicles and equipment into and from areas where poultry are kept.
“The source of the infection in Yorkshire is still being investigated, but poultry producers should continue to take these practical steps and to monitor their birds for any signs of disease – and report any suspicions immediately to their nearest Animal Health office.”
More information about Avian Influenza – including biosecurity guidance – is available from the Scottish Government website http://www.scotland.gov.uk/avianinfluenza
As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where five birds are found dead in the same location and at the same time. In Great Britain, members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra’s national helpline (Tel: 08459 33 55 77, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).