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Avian Influenza

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of birds which have died from avian influenza in (a) Cornwall, (b) each constituency in Cornwall, (c) the South West region and (d) England in the last two years. (221680)

I assume the hon. Member means both wild birds and commercial poultry. It is extremely difficult to give an accurate estimate of birds that have died as a result of avian influenza infection. Although some birds tested positive for avian influenza by laboratory tests, they may not have died as a result of the disease (e.g. wild birds may have died as a result of predation, cold weather or a number of other natural causes).

The following table shows the number of commercial poultry, by species, that were culled as a result of DEFRA's disease control policy, or, wild birds that were submitted as part of the Avian Influenza surveillance programme and that were positive for AI by laboratory testing. In both cases, not all birds would have died from AI infection. Many of the commercial poultry that were culled would have been infected but alive and many not infected at the time of culling, but killed to manage the risk of disease spread because they were part of the same epidemiological unit and had been clearly exposed to infection. Many wild bird and water fowl species may act as carriers for the virus but do not show clinical signs of illness so it is not possible to provide or estimate the number which may be killed by the virus in the wild.

This information is based on the number of commercial poultry culled during outbreaks of Avian Influenza since July 2006 and the number of AI-positive wild birds submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for testing as part of the on-going AI surveillance programme.


Number of wild birds

Number of poultry




Each constituency in Cornwall



South West region (Dorset)





Turkeys: 193,714

Peacocks: 3

Geese: 4,572

Ducks: 52,118

Laying hens: 24,895

Total birds culled in England in the last two years


Although the data in this table give an indication of the number of birds killed by AI in the last two years, this number represents a relatively low proportion of the commercial poultry industry. Due to the current high level of vigilance in the poultry industry, suspect Avian Influenza cases are notified very quickly, enabling a rapid response by DEFRA and Animal Health, so we have been able to control this disease quickly and effectively where it is identified in commercial poultry flocks.