‘Phenomenal level’ of bird flu in UK, chief vet says after thousands culled
The UK’s chief vet has reportedly said there is a “phenomenal level” of bird flu in the country following the culling of tens of thousands of farmed birds.
An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across the UK on November 3 before being extended on November 29 with the added requirement all captive birds had to be kept indoors, amid concerns wild birds migrating from mainland Europe during the winter were carrying the flu.
There are 40 infected premises in the UK, according to UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss.
The risk to human health from avian influenza remains very low, according to public health advice, and there is a low food safety risk.
Dr Middlemiss told the BBC the “phenomenal level” of bird flu has “huge human, animal and trade implications”.
She said the disease was being spread by migratory birds flying back from the north of Russia and eastern Europe, and insisted further research was needed to prevent a worsening outbreak in the future.
Dr Middlemiss told the broadcaster that they cannot risk another, potentially even bigger outbreak, by waiting a year to continue the immense research needed to understand how to tackle the disease.
She said that they will be working with international scientists as well as others here in the UK to “understand more of what we can do about what’s behind it.”
The vet warned the UK was only a few weeks into a migratory season that goes until March next year, as Defra’s figures showed 31 confirmed infected premises in England, three in Wales, two in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland.
“We are going to need to keep up these levels of heightened biosecurity for all that time,” she said.
Dr Middlemiss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there are 40 infected premises in the UK – 38 in Great Britain including 33 in England, adding that around half a million birds have been culled so far.
The protection zone means that, in addition to keeping birds and poultry housed, keepers must continue to take precautions such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting clothing, equipment and vehicles and limiting access to non-essential workers and visitors.
Defra has said the new housing measures will be kept under regular review.
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