It was disturbing to hear of the news of an outbreak of Avian Influenza in East Yorkshire on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme – there is a well rehearsed process for alerting the network of organisations, including us, in the event of a confirmed outbreak. But our notification did arrive later in the day.
In any event – it soon became clear that Monday would be busy in terms of media interest in the story and we would be drawn in not least because, from the start, official statements were implicating the movement of wild birds in the outbreak.
That all birds can catch bird flu is true ... that the disease can travel along with populations of wild birds is also beyond doubt, but slack assumptions about the cause of any outbreak before the facts are known is unhelpful and is a flame that is fanned by lazy journalism.
I dashed to the BBC studio in Cambridge yesterday evening, welcoming the opportunity to address the frankly unlikely idea that ‘swans from the east’ brought the virus to a commercial duck flock housed in a barn 24/7. The lessons from the outbreaks of the strain of the virus H5N1, a type that is known to carry human health risks should have been learned - don’t thrash around in speculation, establish the facts.
Yesterday was busy in the media office – my colleague Jess Chappell, our policy lead on Bird flu was equally occupied, here’s her summary of day 1.
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New strain? Oh no
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