Bird flu outbreak on Yorkshire duck breeding farm

Flashback to 2007, when dead turkeys were loaded onto a JCB after a previous outbreak of bird flu at a rearing unit in Suffolk.
Flashback to 2007, when dead turkeys were loaded onto a JCB after a previous outbreak of bird flu at a rearing unit in Suffolk.

There has been an outbreak of bird flu on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed at least one case of the virus at the farm in the Driffield area.

But it insisted the risk to public health is “very low”, and said it is embarking on a cull of all poultry at the stricken farm.

Defra confirmed the outbreak it is investigating is the H5 virus, but said it is not the H5N1 strain, which has caused serious concern in recent years.

It added that laboratory test results are expected early this week.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We have confirmed a case of avian flu on a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire - the public health risk is very low and there is no risk to the food chain.

“We are taking immediate and robust action which includes introducing a 10km restriction zone and culling all poultry on the farm to prevent any potential spread of infection. A detailed investigation is ongoing.

“We have a strong track record of controlling and eliminating previous outbreaks of avian flu in the UK.”

The NHS website states: “Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious viral illness that spreads among birds. In rare cases it can affect humans.”

A Public Health England spokesman said: “Public Health England are assisting Defra in the investigation of an avian flu outbreak at a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire.

“Based on what we know about this specific strain of avian influenza the risk to human health in this case is considered extremely low.”

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “What we know is their bio-security is good so this risk of spread from this farm is probably quite low.

“When we find this disease we take quick action to remove the birds as a possible source of further infection and we also restrict all the farms with birds in an area around it of 10km to look for possible further spread or possible other infected farms so we can get on top of those early as well.

“In parallel with that we’ll be looking for other possible sources of the disease, including any links to the disease that we’re seeing in the Netherlands and Germany, and that will include looking at the risk from wild bird spread to our national flock.

“From what we know so far we know this is a strain that is highly pathogenic to birds, so this is a disease of poultry.

“The link to the disease that they found in Germany and the Netherlands is our most likely source and, on that basis, Public Health England has said with this strain there is not a risk to public health.

“The people dealing with the birds directly, that’s the highest risk, and we’ll be working to make sure that they’re protected with proper hygiene precautions as they’re handling the birds.

“The main focus is to protect our bird flock rather than any risk to public health.

“We cannot rule out that there might be further cases; this is why we put premises under restriction to look for further spread.

“Because there’s a wild bird risk we also need farmers and their vets all over the country to be alert to possible disease in their farm that they can’t explain, draw those to our attention so we can investigate quickly, and, if there is any more disease, seek to nip that in the bud as well.”

Meanwhile the transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned yesterday after an outbreak of bird flu was confirmed at a chicken farm in Hekendorp.

All 150,000 chickens at the farm, situated around 40 miles south of Amsterdam, are being culled.

The Dutch ministry for economic affairs said the outbreak is deadly to poultry and can also be transmitted to humans.