Defra scientists have confirmed an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm near Redgrave.
The UK’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer announced at 3.15pm on Monday an initial 10km Temporary Control Zone around the premises, which stretches from east of Brettenham to Diss and Banham to Badwell Ash,
The move followed an investigation into a suspected case of avian influenza where Defra says laboratory analysis has identified the presence of the H5N8 strain – the same strain as has been found in the north of England and Wales.
Yesterday (Tuesday) Defra confirmed: “Further investigations into the nature of the virus have now confirmed that it is the same highly pathogenic strain of H5N8 that has been found in wild and farmed birds in the UK since December 2016.”
Bird flu comes in forms described as ‘low pathogenic’ meaning it causes little or no clinical signs in the birds, and ‘highly pathogenic’ meaning it can cause severe clinical signs and high mortality rates.
The Defra statement added: “The affected premises is estimated to contain approximately 23,000 birds.
“A number have died and it has been decided to humanely cull the remaining birds. A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.”
The map reference given on the Defra order is for a two-barn poultry facility on Fen Road where a sign on the gate says ‘Bridge Farm, House 3/4’. The nearby Gressingham Foods stresses it is not one of its sites.
Though Defra is taking the lead on handling the incident, Suffolk Trading Standards staff are backing them up on the ground.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said Trading standards staff are today (Wednesday) going door-to-door in the 3km zone to give out information provided by Defra and answer questions.
The spokesman added: “Defra say there shouldn’t be a major effect on other premises because this has been caught so early in the process.
“People are discouraged from feeding or putting food out for wild birds, particularly if they keep flocks of birds in their gardens.”
The 10km Temporary Control Zone consists of a 3km Zone A and 10km Zone B and controls are equivalent to those which would apply in the 3km Protection Zone and the 10km Surveillance Zone around a confirmed case.
This involves recording visitors and restrictions on the movements of birds, poultry waste and eggs as well as other biosecurity measures.
An Animal and Plant Health Agency spokesman said on Thursday morning that the cull could be finished this afternoon if it goes smoothly.
He adde: “The culling is taking place humanely using gassing units.
“Once the culling is finished, the bird carcasses will be transferred to a secure facility to be destroyed. Bridge Farm itself will be fully cleaned and disinfected upon completion of the culling process.”
The 10km Control Zone around the farm will remain in place for 28 days from the completion of the cull.
The national nature reserve at Redgrave and Lopham Fen is close to the site and the 10km control zone includes Banham Zoo.
Public Health England advises the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
Full details of the area affected with links to the control zone order can be found here.
Defra’s full details of restrictions and advice on protecting flocks can ben found here.
For advice and guidance on what to do if you keep poultry or to report suspicion of disease in animals you can also call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.
The public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77. Defra will collect some of these birds and test them to help us understand how the disease is distributed geographically and in different types of bird.
Defra says bird owners must register flocks of over 50 birds but also advises people with fewer birds to register the flock so it can get in touch with them if there is an outbreak. For details click here