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Avian influenza officially confirmed

A cull is underway after a very mild strain of Avian influenza has been identified on Dunfermline farm, a poultry far near Dunfermline, Scotland. Laboratory tests have identified a very mild strain of the H5N1 virus and a humane cull of almost 40,000 birds has now begun. Restrictions on the movement of poultry and birds for one kilometre around the affected premises remain in place.

Chief Vet Sheila Voas said: “The lab has now formally confirmed the presence of a very mild form of H5N1 avian influenza on a poultry farm near Dunfermline. It is important to stress that this strain is quite distinct from the highly pathogenic form of H5N1 that has caused significant problems over the past decade or so around the world. 

“Robust precautionary measures have been in place since suspicion of disease was first reported, in line with our well-rehearsed contingency plans for dealing with avian influenza, and so today’s formal confirmation is something of a technicality. 

“The process of humanely culling all of the birds on the farm is now underway, and the one kilometre restrictions around the premises will remain in force for 21 days after preliminary cleansing and disinfection.

“The eggs supplied by this broiler breeder unit are not for human consumption but are sent to a company hatchery. As a precaution, those eggs are being destroyed and the movement of poultry or poultry products at that site is restricted until that process is complete.

“Investigations into the possible source of this infection are at an early stage, but it is normal for such viruses to circulate among wild bird populations, especially waterfowl. Therefore it is important that poultry keepers remain vigilant for any signs of disease and to ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: “These latest test results confirm what we already know – that we are dealing with a very mild strain of H5N1 avian influenza. Our robust contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak such as this are now being implemented and the Scottish Government and our partners continue to do all we can to minimise any risk to public or animal health. Poultry producers should continue to remain vigilant and seek immediate veterinary advice if they have any concerns.”

The cull on the farm is being carried out by the Animal Plant and Health Agency on behalf of the Scottish Government. 

Tony Sykes, APHA Head of Field Delivery for Scotland, said: “We have taken immediate action to contain this outbreak as part of our robust procedures for dealing swiftly with avian flu. APHA are now carrying out an epidemiological investigation to identify the likely source of the infection.”

Dr Jim McMenamin, Consultant Epidemiologist and Respiratory Infection lead for Health Protection Scotland said: “Confirmation of the low pathogenicity of this avian influenza means that the risk to human health is very low. On a precautionary basis antiviral medicine have been offered to some individuals on the farm to provide additional protection.”

Rita Botto, Head Veterinarian of Food Standard Scotland said: “On the basis of current scientific evidence, our advice is that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. The risk of getting bird flu through the food chain is very low. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.”

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