Bird flu case confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in the UK

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian influenza (bird flu) in a flock of turkeys at a farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, England.

This follows confirmation of the disease in a flock of turkeys on a nearby farm on December 16, 2016. This is the third case of the disease found in the UK. Two cases have been identified in Ireland.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said there is unlikely to be a direct link to the previous case but a full investigation is under way to confirm this.

A 3km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock is estimated to contain approximately 6,000 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled.

The advice from Public Health England is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has it made it clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said that swift action has been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading with restrictions in place around the affected premises and a full investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.

“This finding reminds us that we must all be vigilant for signs of disease and take steps to minimise the risk of birds catching the disease from wild birds – either directly or through the environment.”

This means complying with the legal requirement currently in place to house birds or otherwise keep them separate from wild birds and following strict bio-security measures to minimise the risk of avian flu spreading via the environment.

This is the same strain which was found in backyard flocks in Carmarthenshire, Wales, and in Settle, North Yorkshire, earlier this month, as well as at a different turkey farm in Lincolnshire in December and in a number of wild birds in England, Wales and Scotland, DEFRA confirmed.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone currently in place in the UK, requires keepers of poultry and other captive birds to continue to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate practical steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

This means all poultry keepers – even those who just keep a few birds as pets – must do everything they can to keep them separate from wild birds and minimise the risk of them catching avian flu via the environment.