Read more about bird flu (avian influenza)
This morning a case of H7N7 avian flu was confirmed on a Lancashire chicken farm near Preston. This is the same strain that caused an outbreak at a farm in Hampshire in February. Further detail on the current outbreak can be found here.
Defra initiated its Contingency Plan immediately to prevent the spread of infection. Culling of all poultry on the farm began over the weekend in anticipation of positive results of testing. A 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected site, restricting all movement of poultry, captive birds or mammals except under licence. These measures were taken during previous outbreaks in Yorkshire last year and Hampshire in February, both of which were successfully contained.
Public Health England have advised that the risk to public health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency have said that there is no food safety risk for consumers.
We are not certain of the source at present, although based on the time of year it is highly unlikely that migratory wild birds are responsible for this outbreak. A Defra investigation into the source is ongoing and we will update this blog with new information as and when it becomes available.
Thankfully, since last month’s outbreak of avian influenza H5N8 on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, there have been no further reports of avian influenza in the UK.
Within the EU, H5N8 outbreaks have now been reported on a total of five poultry farms in the South Holland region of the Netherlands, and one turkey farm in Germany. Within wild bird populations, the virus has been confirmed in one common teal (Anas crecca) in Germany and two Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope) in the Netherlands (a further 955 birds that were tested were not infected). To date, there have been no reports of the H5N8 virus in wild birds in the UK.
Investigations into the source of the EU outbreaks continue, and at this stage the role of wild birds in the spread of the virus is unknown. However the outbreaks in Europe all occurred in farms in which the poultry were housed, therefore direct contact between wild waterfowl and farmed birds is very unlikely.
See here for a full update on H5N8 avian influenza in poultry and wild birds from a UN convened scientific task force.
Defra animal health laboratory has confirmed that the outbreak in East Yorkshire is the H5N8 strain. This is the same strain as that which has caused outbreaks among poultry in Germany and the Netherlands in the last week.
However there are no known records of this strain being detected in humans and the risk to public health remains very low.
Defra investigations continue. Over the next few days the outcome of tests on all poultry holdings within a 3km protection zone around the outbreak site will be known. The restrictions on movements of all poultry, products and waste and the restriction on the release of gamebirds within a 10km surveillance zone still apply, and a cull of 6000 ducks on the farm was due to be completed yesterday. These are important measures to minimise the risk of disease spread to other farms or into the wild bird population.
A field assessment around the outbreak site found low levels of wild bird activity. Although it is still unclear how this strain entered the UK, the possibility that wild birds were responsible continues to look unlikely.