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Bird keepers take measures to reduce spread of bird flu after East Winch outbreak

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West Norfolk bird keepers have been asked to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements following the outbreak of the highly-contagiouos avian flu at a local farm.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 was confirmed in rearing turkeys at East Winch on Saturday with all birds on the infected premises being humanely culled to reduce the spread.

In response to outbreaks, bird keepers have been asked to follow precautionary steps such as placing birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, cleaning footwear and disinfecting any hard surfaces.

There was an outbreak of bird flu at East Winch farm. Picture: Ian Burt
There was an outbreak of bird flu at East Winch farm. Picture: Ian Burt

National Farmers' Union (NFU) chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “The NFU remains in close dialogue with both Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency on this issue and we are working to support any members affected by these cases of avian influenza.

"I would urge all poultry keepers, including members of the public with pet birds, a backyard flock or smallholding, to continue practising enhanced biosecurity at all times. It’s crucial everyone remains vigilant and reports any signs of disease in their birds at the earliest opportunity."

Swaffham poultry auctioneer Fabian Eagle said turkeys are a lot more susceptible to the virus than geese or swans, and described the former as being equivalent to the over 80 age bracket with the risk of the coronavirus.

Mr Eagle, proprietor of Swaffham-based Fabian R Eagle Auctioneer, will not be able to host live auction sales until he gets the go-ahead from Defra.

He expects his industry to be in lockdown until February at the earliest and believes it could stretch until the end of April.

"It depends on whether it is a mild winter and quite dry," Mr Eagle said. "Migratory birds leaving UK shores reduces the risk and in a week's time, most of the affected birds will be killed before Christmas and the risk of spread will be dramatically reduced."

Despite the restrictions, Mr Eagle will be able to host his annual dead poultry auction at Swaffham Market on December 19.

He added: "The outbreak was expected in a way because the numbers stack up in Norfolk as the leading county for the population of turkeys and poultry. It is not anyone's fault, it is just the nature of the game as the virus is so small and the turkeys are highly susceptible."

A 3km Protection and 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises at East Winch.

A nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was announced for England, Wales, and Scotland on November 11 and the virus was confirmed in rearing turkeys at a premises near Attleborough on Friday, December 4.

The risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has highlighted it does not pose a food safety risk.

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301.

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