Bird flu: Restricted zone widens

Government officials have widely increased the area of East Anglia where bird flu restrictions are in force after the Veterinary Laboratories Agency confirmed that the sample from the poultry found dead on a factory near Halesworth, contained the H5N1 avian flu virus, and that it is the highly pathogenic Asian strain.

Government officials have widely increased the area of East Anglia where bird flu restrictions are in force.

Yesterday the Veterinary Laboratories Agency confirmed that the sample from the poultry found dead on a Bernard Matthews factory in Holton, near Halesworth, contained the H5N1 avian flu virus, and that it is the highly pathogenic Asian strain. It is similar to the virus that found in Hungary in January.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has increased the restriction zone imposed around the factory to control the outbreak.

The restriction zone, in which poultry must be kept isolated from wild birds and movements must be licensed, covers 2,090 square kilometres (806 square miles) of east Suffolk and south east Norfolk.

Defra announced: “The State Veterinary Service are enforcing a protection zone of three kilometres radius and a surveillance zone of 10 kilometres around the premises where movement restrictions will be imposed and poultry must be isolated from wild birds.

“A wider restricted zone has also (in consultation with ornithologists) been imposed, covering east Suffolk and south east Norfolk bounded to the west and the north by the A140 and A47 respectively, an area of approximately 2090 sq km. It requires the isolation of poultry from wild birds, and requires movements to be licensed. As further information becomes available and in consultation with ornithological experts the restrictions in place may be adjusted.”

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The national general licence on bird gatherings has been revoked, and bird shows and pigeon racing will no longer be allowed.

Defra also stressed: “There is no reason for public health concern. Avian influenza is a disease of birds and whilst it can pass very rarely and with difficulty to humans, this requires extremely close contact with infected birds, particularly faeces. Advice from the Food Standards Agency remains that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

“Keepers of birds are urged to be vigilant and to exercise good biosecurity. Any owners that suspect disease should act quickly and consult their vet. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and must be reported to the local divisional veterinary manager in the State Veterinary Service.”

t Anyone finding dead wild gulls, waders, ducks, geese or swans within a survey area (or are unsure whether you are in a surveillance area), and anyone needing advice on avian flu can call the Defra Helpline - 08459 33 55 77 (8.30am - 8.00pm 7 days a week) - and choose the Avian Influenza option.