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Avian Influenza H5N1 Confirmed In UK


Avian influenza H5N1 confirmed in UK: control measures being applied

Following confirmation of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in a flock of turkeys at the border of Suffolk and Norfolk in the UK, the Commission has today adopted a Decision defining the risk area and confirming the control measures in place.

The UK authorities informed the Commission of a suspicion of the virus yesterday and, following laboratory tests on samples from the flock, have confirmed that it is the H5N1 strain.

The affected farm held 5 000 fattening turkeys, 1180 ducks and 400 geese, although only the turkeys showed any clinical signs of the disease.

Upon suspicion of the virus, the UK authorities responded rapidly, immediately applying the precautionary measures laid down in the EU Avian Influenza Control Directive and the additional measures for the H5N1 virus, including culling all of the poultry on the holding and establishing a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone around the outbreak as the area A and a further buffer zone as area B.

In the restricted zone, all domestic birds must be kept indoors, and all gatherings of poultry and other captive birds are prohibited in England. Poultry cannot be moved (except directly to the slaughterhouse) and meat cannot be dispatched from the zone unless very stringent conditions are met.

On-farm biosecurity measures must be strengthened and the authorities are ensuring that all poultry owners are fully aware of the procedures to stop the spread of the virus.

Investigation into the possible source of the outbreak is ongoing, and the disease situation will be reviewed at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 20 November.

Notes:

Avian Influenza

Avian influenza or "bird flu" is a highly contagious viral disease which primarily affects birds, but on rare occasions can also be contracted by humans and other mammals. There are many different strains and sub-types of the disease, some more pathogenic and destructive than others.

The strain of avian influenza which is currently causing concern is highly pathogenic H5N1. It has affected many countries worldwide, including parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. H5N1 can spread rapidly through poultry flocks and wild birds are considered to be contributing to its spread around the globe. It does not jump easily from birds to humans. However some cases of H5N1 in humans have been detected, where the affected person were known to have come into very close contact with infected birds.

The European Commission has stepped up preventive measures against avian influenza, in response to the threat of H5N1. All Member States have increased their avian influenza surveillance and the Commission is providing co-funding for the monitoring of wild birds and domestic poultry.

Tighter bio-security measures to limit contact between wild birds and poultry, such as keeping poultry indoors, are in place in high-risk areas in order to prevent or limit the spread of the disease. Furthermore strict EU measures are laid down which must be taken by a Member State in the event of an outbreak in its country.

EU legislation on avian influenza has been reviewed taking into account lessons learned in recent years and includes new measures such as authorising preventive vaccination in very specific cases. EU import bans have also been placed on potentially risky poultry products and susceptible imports from third countries with H5N1 outbreaks.

ENDS

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