Bird flu confirmed at Yorkshire duck farm


A policeman stands guard at a farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire, where a strain of bird flu has been confirmedThe farmer noticed an increase in mortality among his ducks and contacted the authorities

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A case of bird flu has been confirmed at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, officials have said.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the risk to public health was very low. Some 6,000 birds will be culled and a 10km (6 mile) exclusion zone is in place.

The exact strain has not been confirmed but the H5N1 form, deadly to humans, has been ruled out by Defra officials.

The virus spreads between birds and, in rare cases, can affect humans.

The case is the first in the UK since 2008, when chickens on a farm in Banbury, Oxfordshire tested positive for the virus.

On Sunday, an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu was discovered at a poultry farm in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government has imposed a three-day nationwide ban on the transportation of poultry and eggs.

Officials say the strain, H5N8, is very dangerous for bird life and could potentially affect humans, although people can only be infected through very close contact with the affected birds.

EU officials, meeting in Brussels, have said the British case is “most likely” linked to the current outbreak in the Netherlands and a recent outbreak in Germany. They also believe migratory birds heading south for winter are responsible.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss is due to make a Commons statement about the outbreak.

‘Robust action’

The exclusion zone around the farm in the village of Nafferton prevents all poultry and poultry waste being transferred in or out of the area.

Ducks at the Yorkshire farm where bird flu has been foundSome 6,000 ducks will now be culled

Farm workers dressed in blue protective overalls and face masks could be seen on the premises, leaving and entering the six low sheds containing the ducks.

Gary Lavis, chairman of Nafferton parish council, said a problem was first noticed about a week ago when egg production began dropping and more ducks were dying.

He said he was particularly concerned about the potential effect on the local wild bird population, with a mere [lake] in the village and an RSPB reserve nearby.

Defra said the flu strain had been identified as the H5 virus, stressing that it was not the H5N1 strain.

A spokeswoman said: “We have confirmed a case of avian flu on a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire – the public health risk is very low and there is no risk to the food chain.

“We are taking immediate and robust action which includes introducing a restriction zone and culling all poultry on the farm to prevent any potential spread of infection. A detailed investigation is ongoing.”

A Public Health England spokesman said: “Public Health England are assisting Defra in the investigation of an avian flu outbreak at a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire.

“Based on what we know about this specific strain of avian influenza, the risk to human health in this case is considered extremely low.”

BBC News health editor Hugh Pym said there has never been a case of human bird flu in northern Europe.

Experts wearing protection suits work at a poultry farm, where a highly contagious strain of bird flu was found by Dutch authorities.Some 150,000 hens are being culled at the infected farm in the Netherlands