H5N1 confirmed in briitan

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: H5N1 confirmed in briitan
From: "Terry Bishop" <>
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2007 08:20:41 +1100
Mass cull as bird flu hits Britain
THE first case of the deadly flu virus H5N1 in a flock of British birds was 
confirmed yesterday, prompting renewed fears that it is only a matter of time 
before the strain mutates to pass from human to human.

The task of culling more than 150,000 turkeys at the affected farm in Suffolk 
was already under way last night in a desperate bid to stamp out the outbreak 
of the highly contagious virus.

But there is growing concern that the emergence of the virus - at a time when 
few birds are migrating to the UK - could indicate that it has already spread 
into the native population. Such a scenario would leave poultry across Britain 
more vulnerable than ever to infection.

Last night, officials confirmed the virus was the deadly Asian strain which has 
so far killed 161 people across the world.

The news of the fresh case prompted government scientists to throw an emergency 
cordon around the Bernard Matthews factory in Holton.

In a precautionary measure, workers at the factory where the outbreak was 
discovered were offered the anti-flu medicine Tamiflu.

But health officials quickly attempted to stem rising panic over the outbreak, 
insisting the potential health effects on humans was "negligible". They 
reassured consumers that there had been no cases of bird flu being transmitted 
by eating infected poultry, and said humans could only be in danger by coming 
into close contact with affected birds.

The case in Suffolk comes 10 months after the first case of H5N1 was discovered 
in Britain, in a dead swan found in Cellardyke, Fife.

However, this is the first time that H5N1 has spread to a flock of domestic 
birds being reared in enclosed conditions.

The outbreak was discovered on Thursday in one of the large turkey houses at 
the farm, and officials from the Department for Food, Environment and Rural 
Affairs (Defra) were notified immediately.

Yesterday morning, Defra announced that the virus had indeed been the H5N1 

Fred Landeg, the deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, said: "I urge keepers of 
birds to be vigilant, to take care if handling birds which appear to be unwell 
and to observe high levels of bio-security. Owners that suspect disease should 
act quickly to consult their vet."

He added: "There is no reason for public health concern. Avian influenza is a 
disease of birds and, whilst it can pass very rarely and with difficulty to 
humans, this requires extremely close contact with infected birds."

Landeg said that the birds had come from an undisclosed hatchery in the UK, and 
that none had been moved off the farm. Early indications were that this was a 
"recent introduction of disease".

However, experts said the timing of the outbreak was cause for concern.

Avian flu expert Dr Colin Butter, at the Institute of Animal Health, said that 
as the infection had occurred at a nonmigratory time of year, it could indicate 
a "significant" level of the disease in wild birds indigenous to the UK.

Andre Farrar, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, agreed the 
timing of the outbreak raised questions.

He said: "We are not in the middle of what is considered to be a major 
migrating period now. The autumn migration has been over for weeks. The only 
way to find out what happened is to wait and see."

Microbiologists said that while H5N1 remained an animal virus, there was an 
outside chance that it could mutate into a human-borne virus.

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