H5N8, the strain of avian influenza currently spreading across Europe, was confirmed on a turkey farm in Lincolnshire last Friday. Defra immediately put in place a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone around the outbreak site, restricting all movements of poultry, captive birds or mammals in order to limit the risk of the virus from spreading, and all turkeys on the farm have since been humanely culled. These measures have been successfully used during previous UK outbreaks, including the most recent case on a poultry farm in Dunfermline in January 2016, when the virus was contained to a single farm and eradicated very quickly.
Defra are continuing to investigate the origin of the outbreak and at the present time the role of wild birds remains unknown. However biosecurity best practice on poultry farms remains the most effective way of preventing spread, and the GB-wide prevention zone requiring poultry keepers to house their birds wherever practicable, remains.
Defra have enhanced their surveillance of wild birds, and members of the public are being asked to report any cases of dead swans, geese, ducks or gulls, or five or more dead birds of other species, to the Defra hotline (Tel: 03459 33 55 77). Reports considered high risk will be collected by Defra for testing. To-date no wild birds have tested positive for avian influenza in the UK this winter. We will update this blog with new information as and when it becomes available.
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