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Defra says UK bird flu risk remains unchanged despite outbreak in the Netherlands

PUBLISHED: 11:47 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:51 14 December 2017

Turkeys in west Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Turkeys in west Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

The official risk level posed by bird flu to commercial poultry businesses in East Anglia remains unchanged, despite a new outbreak across the North Sea.

Officials at the scene of the bird flu outbreak at Redgrave, near Diss, in February 2017. Picture: ANTONY KELLY Officials at the scene of the bird flu outbreak at Redgrave, near Diss, in February 2017. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Defra reviewed avian influenza risk in the UK following an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of the virus in the Netherlands, which resulted in the cull of a 16,000-bird flock of ducks, and a mandatory housing order for poultry.

But despite a number of new cases of avian influenza in Europe, Defra has decided not to increase the threat level in this country. The risk remains low for commercial poultry, and medium for wild birds – which are one of the most likely sources of infection during the migration season.

The department’s latest update says: “Many of the wild migratory waterfowl have now arrived to overwinter in northern Europe and the UK from their breeding grounds in Central and North Eurasia.

“With the exception of the wild duck case in Germany on the October 23, all the wild bird outbreaks (and poultry outbreaks) reported in Europe since the last report are south of the main migratory waterfowl flyway to the UK. Thus, on this basis, it appears less likely that wild birds will bring H5N8 to the UK from these southerly regions of Europe.”

In its conclusion, the report says “Given the uncertainty in the distribution and prevalence of H5N8 in wild birds in northern Europe and the new evidence of a single outbreak with H5N6, it is appropriate to keep the risk level at “MEDIUM” for the present but keep under continuous review. The risk for poultry remains “LOW” for introduction of infection onto individual premises, but will depend on levels of biosecurity which we recommend should be increased, particularly for seasonal fattening farms of poultry.

“We strongly recommend that all poultry keepers (including backyard keepers) review their biosecurity measures and business continuity plans now, as the risk level may well increase in the coming weeks.”

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