Bird Flu Found Flying in the UK

The Avian influenza virus (H5N8) risk to humans is very low

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The H5N8 avian influenza virus, known commonly as the “Bird Flu”, is sweeping across Europe. It has now been detected for the first time in Britain.

A turkey farm in Lincolnshire is now reporting that the virus has spread beyond wild birds, into backyard poultry.

The UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement “that the outbreak near the town of Louth, located in the eastern part of the country, killed most of the 5,000 birds at the facility and that the others will be culled.”

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

The PHE said “thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat”.

Dr Nigel Gibbens, DEFRA's chief veterinary officer, said “immediate steps have been taken to keep the virus from spreading, and he urged bird keepers to maintain good biosecurity and quickly report any signs of disease.”

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"We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it," said Gibbens.

“We have put in place a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.”

A spokesperson for the PHE said there have been no reported human H5N8 cases.

"Despite the risk being very low, we will offer health advice to those people who may have been exposed on the farm as a precaution."

Dr. Gibbens said “this avian flu outbreak is the United Kingdom's first since January. Avian flu (often called bird flu) is primarily a disease of birds.”

“There have never been any recorded cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to public health is considered very low. Despite the risk being very low, we will offer health advice to those people who may have been exposed on the farm as a precaution,” said Dr. Gibbens.