Defra confirms latest bird flu outbreak is H5 N1

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The Independent Online

The strain of bird flu found in turkeys on a farm in East Anglia is the highly pathogenic H5N1 type, acting chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said today.

Some 5,000 turkeys, more than 1,000 ducks and 500 geese on a rearing unit site in Redgrave, Suffolk, were due to be culled after bird flu was found.

Mr Landeg was speaking ahead of a statement by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to the House of Commons later today to update MPs on progress in dealing with the outbreak.

Protection and surveillance zones, set at 3km and 10km respectively, were put in place around the infected farm after the disease was confirmed, restricting the movement of birds and requiring them to be housed and isolated from wild birds.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) later announced further restrictions in a wider area as a "precautionary measure" after consultation with experts, meaning the whole of Suffolk and much of Norfolk were affected.

But the RSPB warned against assuming the disease had been spread by wild birds - a claim inaccurately made in the last case of contagious H5 in the UK earlier this year in which nearly 160,000 birds were culled.

A report by Defra into the February outbreak at the Bernard Matthews poultry plant in Holton, Suffolk, later said it was most likely the H5N1 infection reached the flock via imported turkey meat from Hungary.

The current outbreak is the latest blow to hit the farming industry, which announced today it was launching a compensation claim against the two laboratories at Pirbright, Surrey, which were at the centre of this summer's foot and mouth cases.

The alarm was raised on Sunday after a rise in death rates among the birds, which are owned by poultry producer Gressingham Foods, based in Woodbridge, Suffolk.

The site's operations director Geoff Buchanan said about 60 turkeys in a flock of 1,000 tested positive for the virus.

Movements within the wider restriction zone but not beyond were allowed and general licences for "low risk movements" were expected to be made available shortly, Defra has said.

The national general licence permitting bird gatherings in England has also been revoked and bird shows and pigeon racing are not allowed under the rules currently in place.

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