Bird flu tests underway

Avian Influenza (AI)tests are being carried out on a chicken found dead at a premises close to the Bernard Matthews turkey farm at Holton, Suffolk where the deadly H5N1 strain has already been identified. According to Defra the owner reported signs of watery diarrhoea and ?eye problems? in a chicken that died last Wednesday (January 31).

The chicken was one of three kept on the premises, but Defra Veterinary Officers found the remaining two to be healthy. ?The owner however remained very concerned that the dead bird could have been affected by AI virus,? Defra reported. Virus detection tests are currently being carried out on the dead chicken at VLA Weybridge.

Meanwhile the culling of all 149,000 turkeys on the Bernard Matthews turkey farm is now complete and cleansing and disinfection work is underway. Carcasses are being transported in sealed leak-proof lorries, covered with tarpaulins to a plan in Staffordshire where they will be rendered. ?This plant has been chosen as it is the most suitable plant that has the capacity and bio-security measures to deal with the number of birds necessary,? said a spokesperson for Defra.

Defra is still trying to discover how the turkeys at Holton became infected with the deadly H5N1 virus. Ornithologists visited the sheds at the Bernard Matthews farm today to ascertain whether wild birds could have entered. Swabs and faeces samples have also been taken.

Britain?s £370 million poultry industry will no doubt suffer from the recent outbreak. Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, South Africa and Jersey have all suspended imports of poultry and poultry meat from the UK.

Surveillance for high pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza and other avian influenza viruses in wild birds is continuing throughout the UK. In excess of 12,000 wild birds have been tested. Experts believe ducks, geese, swans, gulls and waders have the greatest potential role in the spread of AI viruses. Yesterday the Defra Helpline fielded over 1000 calls, mainly concerned with the reporting of dead birds.

Members of the public can report dead swans, ducks, geese, waders and gulls by calling the Defra Helpline 08459 33 55 77.

For further information call the Defra helpline 08459 33 55 77 (8.30am – 8.00pm 7 days a week) – and choose the avian influenza option.