Poultry farmers across the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) are braced for incoming new lockdown-style measures on their farms to control the spread of bird flu.
The Influenza in question is H5N8, a “highly pathogenic” strain that’s currently prominent in the regions of Cheshire, Devon, Gloucestershire and Hertfordshire. As of now, it’s been detected in wild bird populations and two broiler chicken farms, where all the birds are in the process of being culled.
Farmers are required to restrict access for non-essential people, remove any elements that can potentially attract wild birds and ensure workers are regularly disinfecting footwear and changing clothes. Those found to not be complying face up to either three months in prison or unlimited fines, as announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
However, the speed of the spread of outbreaks in Europe over the past few weeks has blindsided the industry, with hundreds of thousands of birds culled across Germany and the Netherlands.
Similarly, thousands of dead wild birds were reportedly found on the north-west coast of Germany last week, most likely infected with bird flu.
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths explained that Avian Influenza is a significant threat to the poultry industry and he is in favour of the new restrictive measures to minimise risks of a larger and wider outbreak.
“It is an incredibly difficult situation for farmers and producers if they get a case of avian influenza (AI), so the controls and their costs are made to be as fair as they can be. For instance, farmers are compensated for the culling of healthy birds as part of AI controls. The system is as fair as it possibly can be, given the nature of the situation.”
Public Health England (PHE) communicated that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
PHE said: “Our advice regarding contact with wild birds remains the same – make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap after coming into contact with any animal and do not touch any sick or dead birds.”
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