55,000 ducks at Suffolk farm to be culled after bird flu virus identified at second Redgrave site

The scene of the initial bird flu outbreak at Redgrave. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The scene of the initial bird flu outbreak at Redgrave. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Around 55,000 birds are set to be culled as a precautionary measure after the bird flu virus was identified at a second site near Redgrave.

The presence of disease was discovered by Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) officials following routine investigations of Suffolk's first case of the Avian Influenza H5N8 virus at a nearby broiler breeding unit.

'Due to the unacceptable high risk and to contain the possible spread of avian flu, the UK's Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer has today (March 3) confirmed that proactive culling of around 55,000 birds will take place,' DEFRA said.

As with the previous case, the premises will then be cleansed and disinfected to reduce the risk to other birds.

A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone are already in place following the previous outbreak.

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Specialist duck producer Gressingham Foods, which is based at Debach, near Woodbridge, and runs the site where evidence of the virus was found, stressed that none of its birds have tested positive for the disease, and that it was found in the environment, rather than in its ducks, following routine tests.

'Following the discovery of an outbreak of avian influenza at a neighbouring chicken farm in February, DEFRA have today advised of a precautionary cull of ducks on one of our farms near Diss, Norfolk,' a company spokesman said.

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'The precautionary cull of ducks will take place over the weekend of March 4 and 5. There is not and has not been any outbreak of AI (Avian Influenza) in any of our flocks, which are tested by DEFRA regularly. This is a precautionary measure as DEFRA consider the farm to have potential for dangerous contact with the infected neighbouring farm.

'In accordance with guidance from DEFRA, Gressingham Foods has been operating at a heightened level of biosecurity since early autumn 2016 when outbreaks of avian influenza were first found in Europe. Non essential visits have been cancelled and management movements between farms and species have been restricted.

'The welfare of our birds and food safety to our customers are absolute priorities and we work to independently audited, stringent standards in hygiene, bio security and animal welfare. All our farms work to the same high standards.

'We remain in close contact with DEFRA and will continue to monitor developments closely.

DEFRA said: 'Our investigations will continue and the restrictions already placed on the site will remain in force until cleansing and disinfection is finished and the investigation is complete.'

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

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