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Avian Influenza

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 20 December 2016

The chief veterinary officer has confirmed a case of avian flu in a turkey farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire.

Test results have confirmed the presence of a high pathogenicity H5N8 strain of the disease. This is the strain currently circulating in Europe. As a result, the Animal and Plant Health Agency has raised the risk of an incursion into wild birds in the UK from medium to high and into poultry from low but heightened to low to medium, dependent on geographic location.

While this disease affects birds severely, the advice from Public Health England is that the risk to public health from this strain of bird flu is very low with no human cases ever reported, and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.

We have taken robust action, imposing a 3 km protection zone and 10 km surveillance zone last Friday to limit the risk of disease spreading. The birds on the farm have either died or were humanely culled. All carcasses have been removed and rendered under strict biosecurity standards. Cleansing and disinfection of the site has commenced.

We have tried and tested procedures for dealing with such animal disease outbreaks and a strong track record of controlling and eliminating previous outbreaks of avian flu in the UK. We are working closely with operational partners, devolved Administration colleagues and the industry to deal effectively with this outbreak.

My Department continues to carefully monitor the situation in the UK and Europe. Following my statement of 7 December where I announced the mandatory housing of poultry and other kept birds, and as a result of the increased risk to UK poultry, I have today announced a change to the licensing of bird gatherings including sales and auctions. This prevents until further notice, gatherings of domestic poultry, and places enhanced biosecurity requirements on gatherings of other species including aviary birds, pigeons and raptors. This follows veterinary advice on the risk of disease spread through such gatherings.

I continue to urge bird keepers to be vigilant for any signs of disease, ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, seek prompt advice from their vet and report suspect disease to their nearest APHA office.