Bird flu 'will not easily infect humans'

Government officials and scientists are working to reassure the public that the potentially deadly H5N1strain of bird flu, found among turkeys at an East Anglian poultry farm, will not easily spread to humans.

Government officials and scientists are working to reassure the public that the potentially deadly H5N1strain of bird flu, found among turkeys at an East Anglian poultry farm, will not easily spread to humans.

Deputy chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said all 159,000 turkeys on the Bernard Matthews poultry farm at Holton, near Halesworth, would be slaughtered as a precaution. He was hopeful the outbreak would be contained.

Scientists say it is rare for an animal virus to cross the species barrier and only those in close contact with diseased birds are at any risk.

Maria Zambon of the Health Protection Agency said: “Bird flu doesn't transmit easily to humans and human disease occurs as a result of direct contact with poultry. There is no confirmed information worldwide about transmission of bird flu through food.”

Workers at the farm have been offered drugs like Tamiflu, and those killing the birds were also being offered drugs and wearing protective clothing.

Tests are continuing to discover if the strain is the Asian version of H5N1 and where it had originated.

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Four types of the virus in birds are known to have caused infections in humans. These are H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2. Only the H5N1 strain can lead to serious illness and death, in cases of close contact with infected birds. And the fear is that this bird flu virus will change into a form which can be spread between humans, rather than from bird to human.

National Farmers Union 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.”