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Avian Influenza H7 Confirmed In Oxfordshire, UK

Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (UK)

Avian influenza H7 confirmed in Oxfordshire

The Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, has today confirmed Avian Influenza in chickens on premises near Banbury in Oxfordshire after preliminary tests were positive for the H7 strain. All birds on the premises will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure.

Laboratory testing continues and results which will allow confirmation of whether the strain is high or low pathogenicity will follow. A detailed epidemiological investigation to better understand the origin and development of the disease is underway.

A Temporary Control Zone with a 3km inner zone and a 10km outer zone is being established around the Infected Premises. A number of measures apply. All birds must be housed or otherwise isolated from contact with wild birds in the inner zone. Bird gatherings are banned and all other movements of birds and some products are banned in the whole of the Temporary Control Zone. Defra is urgently considering whether any wider measures may be needed.

Nigel Gibbens said:

"I would stress the need for poultry keepers to be extremely vigilant, practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to their local Animal Health Office immediately."

The Health Protection Agency has advised that it is important to remember that H7 avian flu remains largely a disease of birds. The virus does not transmit easily to humans, as evidenced by the small number of confirmed infections worldwide to date. Almost all human H7 infections documented so far have been associated with close contact with dead or dying poultry. The risk to human health posed by H7 avian influenza viruses remains low. Nonetheless, the local Health Protection Unit will be identifying and following up those who may have had contact with the infected poultry and provide guidance and advice, and preventative medication as appropriate.

Dr Judith Hilton, Food Standards Agency head of microbiological safety, said:

"This case of bird flu on a premises in Banbury, Oxfordshire poses no safety implications for the human food chain.

"Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat. The science shows that the virus isn't contracted by eating food - but usually by close contact with infected birds."

All poultry keepers on the GB Poultry Register are being notified, and the EU Commission has been informed.

NOTES

1. Avian Influenza is a disease of birds. Whilst it can pass very rarely and with difficulty to humans, this requires extremely close contact with infected birds, particularly faeces.

2. Advice from the Food Standards Agency remains that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat. People should follow the Agency's normal food hygiene advice in relation to handling eggs and raw poultry meat in the kitchen. People should not eat raw eggs or use raw eggs in dishes that will not be cooked. Eggs should be cooked until the whites are solid. People at particular risk of salmonella should continue to cook eggs until the yolks are solid. People should also ensure that poultry meat is cooked to the point where the juices run clear and there are no red parts in the meat. The H7 virus is destroyed by cooking thoroughly.

3. All avian influenzas (H1 to H16) can be low pathogenic but only H5 and H7 are known to have the potential to become highly pathogenic.

4. For further information, please visit the avian influenza pages on the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/index.htm

5. AI has been found in Great Britain on the following occasions:

* January/February 2008 - H5N1 Avian Influenza confirmed in 11 wild birds in the Chesil Beach area in Dorset.

* November 2007 - H5N1 avian influenza on a turkey farm near Diss, Norfolk.

* June 2007 - H7 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza near St Helens, Merseyside, England.

* May 2007 - H7N2 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Corwen, Conwy, North Wales.

* February 2007 - Second case in UK of H5N1 Avian Influenza in poultry, found in Upper Holton, Suffolk.

* May 2006 - Low pathogenic H7N3 in chickens in Dereham, Norfolk

* April 2006 - The Cellardyke (Fife, Scotland) swan was the first highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza case detected in a wild bird in the British Isles. It is thought that the swan originated from outside Great Britain. We know already that movement of swans associated with cold weather and on migration has been a feature of recent developments in Europe.

* October 2005 - High path H5N1 found in birds in quarantine in Essex (although that did not count as an outbreak as they were in quarantine).

Website http://www.defra.gov.uk

Client ref 171/08

COI ref 161605P

ENDS

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