Defra has lifted the surveillance and restriction zones put in place following the recent outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in Suffolk. The outbreak was confined to the two premises and, with no further outbreaks, all restrictions on bird gatherings and movements of poultry and poultry meat have been lifted.
During the outbreak, staff on RSPB nature reserves in Norfolk and Suffolk increased four-fold the frequency of surveillance patrols for dead birds, reporting all findings to Defra. Patrol frequency has now reverted to that observed before the outbreak. This work continues to be undertaken at a significant cost to the RSPB (see post of 19 April 2007)
We now await the publication in the New Year of Defra's final epidemiology report into the outbreak. The preliminary report concluded that there was no evidence of poultry movements being linked to the outbreak. Neither was there any evidence that wild birds were implicated even though the report concluded that ‘infection by wild birds could not be ruled out'. We expressed our serious concerns about this conclusion directly to the Acting Chief Vet, Fred Landeg, along with criticism of Defra's inability to enforce bird exclusion measures at the infected premises in order to reduce the risk of transmission to wild birds. We continue to advise Defra and its agencies on the lessons that need to be learned, in particular the need to take rapid action to protect wild birds from infection when free-range poultry are infected.