A case of avian flu has been confirmed at a Yorkshire duck breeding farm.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that the case was confirmed on Sunday (November 16th), when experts agreed that the strain of avian flu was H5N8.
Although Defra says that the strain of the virus does not pose any risk to the food chain and comes at a low risk to human health overall, it is taking clear steps to prevent any further spread of the infection.
It was announced on Tuesday that Defra was about to cull as many as 6,000 ducks at the east Yorkshire facility, in keeping with existing risk management procedures established in previous cases of bird flu. A 10km restriction zone around the farm has also been established.
Defra is also investigating the outbreak to determine whether there are any connections between this case and recent infections detected in Germany and the Netherlands.
Public Health England has reiterated that there has never been a reported case of H5N8 in humans anywhere in the world, and that the likelihood of birds transmitting the virus to humans is “extremely low”.
“Infection in people is rare and only occurs with some strains of avian influenza,” said Dr Stephen Morton, centre director for Public Health England in Yorkshire and the Humber. “Evidence shows that only people who have handled or have been in very close contact with infected birds are most at risk of getting avian influenza and even then, the risk of severe illness is low.”
However, he added that the people involved in the cull will be provided with antiviral drugs as per standard procedure as a precaution.
Concerns have naturally been raised about how this could affect both the supply of poultry over the crucial Christmas period. However, Mike Bailey, chair of the turkey board at the National Farmers’ Union told FoodManufacture.co.uk that for most turkey producers it is still very much “business as usual”.