Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Poultry farmers on high alert as avian flu outbreak confirmed in UK

The UK has confirmed an outbreak of bird flu in a turkey flock.
The UK has confirmed an outbreak of bird flu in a turkey flock.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Irish poultry farmers are on high alert as a case of Avian Influenza H5N8 (bird flu) has been confirmed in the UK.

Officials in the UK confirmed that a turkey flock near the coast in Lincolnshire has suffered an outbreak and an exclusion zone has been established.

The H5N8 subtype of avian influenza has been responsible for a number of outbreaks of disease in both wild birds and poultry in several European countries since the end of October this year and Japan confirmed its first case this weekend, with the cull of over 200,000 birds.

The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine here said that while the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have ever been reported world-wide and therefore risk to humans is considered to be very low.

It re-emphasised that poultry flock owners are advised to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, maintain strict biosecurity measures and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office.

An early warning system is in place with Birdwatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils with regard to surveillance for signs of disease in wild birds.

All the birds at the UK premises have died or will be humanely culled to limit the risk of disease spread, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed.

It said it is taking immediate and robust action and an investigation is underway to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.

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A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected farm.

How to spot avian influenza

There are two types of avian influenza. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality.

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