UK government scientists are examining samples from a duck farm in Driffield in east Yorkshire where an outbreak of avian flu has been discovered. This comes hot on the heels of the finding two days ago on a Netherlands chicken farm of a highly contagious strain of bird flu.
DEFRA – Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – has confirmed that some six thousand ducks are to be slaughtered after the bird flu type involved was confirmed as a form of the H5 type of avian flu though not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain.
That strain has had world health officials worried as it can in humans be fatal though the Dutch farm in question appears to have suffered an outbreak of the H5N8 strain. This type of bird flu is to date unknown in humans but has led to tens of thousands of chickens being culled in Asia.
Chief UK veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens commented that it seemed likely that the Dutch outbreak was the source of the Yorkshire problem but the specific virus involved had yet to be formally identified. If it does prove to be the case that the virus involved is Hn58 it is thought that the risk to humans will be minimal.
There is also no risk to the food chain according to DEFRA and the agency are confident of containing the outbreak. To that end they have introduced a 10 km restriction zone with the affected farm at the centre and detailed investigations are continuing.
The DEFRA team are expected to start killing off the ducks on Tuesday when all the right gear is in place on the farm in the village of Nafferton. Dutch officials have indeed started the culling of 150,000 chickens and furthermore imposed a 72-hour ban on transportation of poultry products.
A Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority spokesman stated that they were investigating a further 16 poultry farms in a radius and had detected no further instances of bird flu. This particular strain had in fact also been discovered in early November in north-east Germany and furthermore caused the South Korean killing of many thousands of fowl.
Ten thousand chickens got culled last March because of bird flu at a farm in the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland but the Netherlands can genuinely claim in the past decade not to have suffered a single outbreak of either of the highly contagious H5 or H7 strains.
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