Avian flu confirmed at 27,000-bird Suffolk poultry farm

Government officials are working to contain an incident of avian flu confirmed at a 27,000-bird commercial broiler farm in Mid Suffolk.

The low pathogenic avian flu of the H5 strain was first discovered on Tuesday, December 10.

All birds will now be humanely culled and we have put in place a 1km restriction zone around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The restrictions in place mean that the movement of birds, eggs and other things such as carcasses on or off premises within the 1km zone are banned except under licence.

No gatherings of poultry or the release of game birds are also allowed in the zones.

The advice from Public Health England (PHE) is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Low pathogenic Avian flu (LPAI) has been confirmed on a commercial chicken farm in Suffolk. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and 27,000 poultry at the farm will be culled.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

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.”

Dr. Gavin Dabrera, a public health consultant at PHE, said: “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 in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

LPAI is a less serious strain of H5 avian influenza. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The last confirmed case of LPAI in the UK was in Dunfermline in January 2016.

Keeping vigilant

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

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If any type of bird flu in poultry is suspected keepers must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on: 03000-200-301.

In Wales, keepers should contact: 0300-303-8268. In Scotland, they should contact their local Field Services Office.

In Northern Ireland, suspected cases should be raised at the DAERA direct office or by calling the DAERA helpline on: 0300-200-7840.

Failure to report suspected cases of avian influenza is an offence.

If the public finds dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, they should report them to the Defra helpline on: 03459-335-577.