Bird flu breaks out on Yorkshire duck farm

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bird flu Influenza Avian influenza

The strain of bird affecting the Yorkshire duck farm has yet to be identified. But it officials said it posed 'a very low risk' to human health
The strain of bird affecting the Yorkshire duck farm has yet to be identified. But it officials said it posed 'a very low risk' to human health
Britain’s first case of bird flu for six years has been confirmed on a duck farm in Yorkshire, after a contagious strain of bird flu was detected on a poultry farm in the Netherlands.

A six-mile exclusion zone has been put in place around the farm at Nafferton, East Yorkshire and all 6,000 birds on the farm are to be culled immediately. But the risk to the British public was very low, said officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

DEFRA officials have yet to identify the precise strain of the virus concerned but have ruled out the deadly H5N1 virus.

A DEFRA spokesman said: “We have confirmed a case of avian flu on a duck breeding farm 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 restriction zone and culling all poultry on the farm to prevent any further potential spread of infection.”

The official said a detailed investigation was now underway, adding: “We have a have a strong track record of controlling and eliminating previous outbreaks of avian flu in the UK.”

A spokesman from Public Health England confirmed the agency was working with DEFRA to trace the source of the outbreak. “Based on what we know of about this specific train of avian influenza, the risk to human health in this case is considered extremely low.”

The chief veterinery officer Nigel Gibbens said the risk of spread was “quite low” ​because the birds were housed. “The focus at the moment is to protect bird flocks ratha than the risk to human health”, ​Gibbens told BBC News. 

Threat to Christmas turkeys

Meanwhile, the threat to Chrismas turkey supplies remained unclear. But the species was susceptible to bird flu, said professor of virology at the University of Warwick David Evans. “While the case in Yorkshire affects ducks, the strains of bird flu are transmissable to other domestic and wild poultry, including chickens and turkeys,”​ Evans told The Daily Telegraph. 

Bird flu spreads mainly between birds but can occasionally pass to humans. Outbreaks of bird flu in the past have often been linked with wild bird migrations. But the virus can be transmitted by imported commerical birds, cages that housed infected birds and workers who tended them.

While most types of the virus are harmless to humans, two strains – H5N1 an H7N9 – have given serious concern for human health, according to the National Health service.

Highly contagious

EU health officials are meeting today (Monday November 17) to discuss measures to prevent the spread of a highly contagious strain of bird flu confirmed on a poultry unit in the Netherlands yesterday.

The confirmed strain H5N8 could affect humans, said the Dutch government. It has ordered the destruction of 150,000 hens at a farm near Hekendorp, in the north east of the country.  

In April 2013 restrictions were imposed on movements in and out of a Bernard Matthews poultry farm after a suspected strain​ of bird flu was detected. DEFRA tests returned negative results for the potentially dangerous H5 and H7 forms of bird flu.

The last confirmed case of bird flu in the UK was on a chicken farm in Banbury, Oxfordshire in 2008.

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