Eastern Europe 'unlikely' flu source

Bird migration experts in Norfolk today said it was “unlikely” that Suffolk's avian influenza outbreak was caused by an infected wild bird coming from Eastern Europe.

Bird migration experts in Norfolk today said it was “unlikely” that Suffolk's avian influenza outbreak was caused by an infected wild bird coming from Eastern Europe.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been keeping a close tab on bird flu outbreaks across Europe since developing a migration tracking tool last year following funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Officials from the Thetford based organisation have now provided Defra with a list of migratory species that could have come from Eastern Europe to the Bernard Matthews farm at Holton, near Halesworth, after government vets said the H5N1 strain was similar to a case found in Hungary last month .

However, Graham Appleton, from the BTO, said it was the wrong time of year for geese, ducks and gulls to be migrating from east to west.

“It is a long way from Hungary to a closed factory in Suffolk and it is hard to think that a wild bird would make that journey without coming into contact with another flock of birds.”

“Every autumn, millions of birds travel from Siberia and Russia because it is too cold and a number come to this country, but this is a strange time of the year to get bird movement from across the North Sea.”

Most Read

“Sometimes we get movement in this direction if there is cold weather, but it has been ridiculously warm, and we think it is unlikely,” he said.

The BTO is helping to provide rapid advice to government officials on the risks posed by avian influenza after forming a detailed mapping tool of more than 650,000 ringed wild bird movements across Europe.

The trust is also asking birdwatchers to be vigilant and look out for any unusual bird mortality and to report incidents to Defra on 08459 335577.