Bird flu: Wide restriction zone imposed

A restriction zone for poultry covering a large part of Norfolk and east Suffolk has been imposed by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), as the cull of 159,000 turkeys goes on.

A restriction zone for poultry covering a large part of Norfolk and east Suffolk has been imposed by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

This follows the outbreak of the Asian strain of H5NI, which was confirmed in a Bernard Matthews flock of seven-week turkeys at Holton, near Halesworth.

All 159,000 birds are being slaughtered to prevent potential spread, which may be well completed by later tomorrow.

Initial indications suggest that the strain may have been contained in a single shed but samples have been taken from the other 21 sheds.

Speaking today, Norfolk farmer Nigel Joice, regional chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said: “Only one house was diseased. They have taken blood from all the other houses.”

Mr Joice recalled that when Matthews was struck by avian influenza in 1991 a similar thing happened at Felthorpe and again only one shed was infected. “It got into one shed and in those days they only culled the one shed. And the rest of the farm never got infected,” he added.

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He said that Defra and Trading Standards seemed to have everything well under control. “I'm very pleased to see how it has gone on such a potentially big outbreak.”

It was announced last night that following consultations with ornithologists a wider Restricted Zone has been imposed.

The Restricted Zone, which covers more than 800 sq miles of Norfolk and Suffolk, is bounded by the A47 near Norwich, down the A140 towards Ipswich and then down to the coast at Felixstowe.

The regulations require the isolation of poultry from wild birds and movements to be licensed.

Farmers are being urged to ensure they have strict biological security measures in place following the outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

NFU spokesman Lee Woodger said: “We are urging members to make sure they do everything they can to ensure bio security measures are in place. But the poultry industry does have high levels of bio-security normally. Other than that it's wait and see for further news. We are hoping it doesn't spread further.”

“There are three kilometre and 10 kilometre zones set up around the farm involved. All free-range poultry will be locked away in secured sheds in that zone. All the farmers across the country have plans they have worked on with Defra which means that should it be necessary this can be done with poultry on a regional and national basis.”

Poultry owners living within the restriction zone have been told to bring their birds inside. Council workers are contacting owners of poultry and offering them advice following the outbreak. Jill Korwin, assistant head of Trading Standards for Suffolk, said officers were using the National Poultry Register to identify owners and would also be relying on the general public to provide information about anyone who was not abiding by the regulations.

Last night a restriction zone, in which poultry must be kept isolated from wild birds and movements must be licensed, was put in place covering 2,090 square kilometres (806 square miles) of east Suffolk and south east Norfolk.

Mr Woodger said he did not think the exclusion zones would pose a significant problem in the short term and said farmers would have to “work with the situation”.

As further information becomes available and in consultation with ornithological experts the restrictions in place may be adjusted.

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.

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.