Bird flu found at Christmas turkey farm


A deadly strain of bird flu has been found at a turkey farm just a week before Christmas. The H5N8 strain has been discovered at a farm in Lincolnshire, which had more than 5,000 birds.

The virus has been circulating in mainland Europe and has now been found in Britain, according to the Departmet for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Birds which have not died in the outbreak so far will be killed as a precaution, although the authorities say there will be no impact on the Christmas turkey supply for families planning a traditional Christmas lunch.

A protection zone and a wider surveillance zone has been put in place in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading any further, and other bird farms and facilities are being warned to keep their birds indoors.

Bird flu in humans

Defra has now launched an investigation in a bid to find out how the virus has reached Lincolnshire. Meanwhile Public Health England moved to provide reassurances, saying the risk to humans is very low. So far, there have been no recorded cases of a human catching H5N8, although people have been diagnosed with other strains of bird flu. Symptoms tend to be similar to other types of flu. However, there have been cases of bird flu leading to pneumonia and even organ failure.

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens confirmed that the bird flu was the same type as that found in poultry elsewhere in Europe in recent months. He urged bird keepers to report any suspicions they may have about their own stock.

No bird flu outbreak has been recorded in the UK since January. However, since June, other European countries and others worldwide have been found to have the H5N8 strain in wild and domestic birds, with countries affected including Austria, India, Croatia, Denmark, Russia and Israel.