For the second time in a month, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant Health Agency (DEFRA) has reported H5N8 avian influenza in a flock of turkeys at a farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire.
This follows confirmation of the disease in a flock of turkeys on a nearby farm on 16 December 2016. There is unlikely to be a direct link to the previous case but a full investigation is under way to confirm this.
A 3 km Protection Zone and a 10 km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading. The flock is estimated to contain approximately 6,000 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled.
The advice from Public Health England 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.
Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said:
We have taken swift action to limit the risk of the disease spreading with restrictions in place around the affected premises. A full investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.
This finding reminds us that we must all be vigilant for signs of disease and take steps to minimise the risk of birds catching the disease from wild birds – either directly or through the environment.
This means complying with the legal requirement currently in place to house birds or otherwise keep them separate from wild birds and following strict biosecurity measures to minimise the risk of avian flu spreading via the environment.
This is the same strain which was found in backyard flocks in Carmarthenshire, Wales, and in Settle, North Yorkshire, earlier this month, as well as at a different turkey farm in Lincolnshire in December and in a number of wild birds in England, Wales and Scotland.
An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone is currently in place, requiring keepers of poultry and other captive birds to continue to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate practical steps to keep them separate from wild birds. This means all poultry keepers – even those who just keep a few birds as pets – must do everything they can to keep them separate from wild birds and minimise the risk of them catching avian flu via the environment.
The Chief Vet has issued practical advice for people with backyard poultry on how to limit the risk to their birds. This includes keeping birds in a suitable building where possible and taking precautions such as putting up netting, keeping food and water inside and disinfecting footwear, vehicles and equipment after contact with birds.
Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577.