Monday 9 December 2019

Suspected bird flu case identified in chickens at Scottish farm

A temporary control zone of one kilometre has been put in place around the premises
A temporary control zone of one kilometre has been put in place around the premises

Karrie Gillett

A suspected case of bird flu has been identified in chickens at a farm in Fife, the Scottish Government has said.

A temporary control zone of one kilometre has been put in place around the Dunfermline premises and the birds will be culled.

Officials confirmed initial test results have indicated the presence of a strain of avian influenza (H5) but said it is a "low pathogenic strain" and further testing is under way.

Poultry producers have been urged to be vigilant following the suspected case.

But the risk to human health in this case is considered "very low", according to Health Protection Scotland.

Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: "We have taken immediate action to contain this case as part of our robust procedures for dealing swiftly with avian flu.

"Evidence suggests this is a low severity form of the virus, however we are taking action to ensure that the disease does not spread or develop into a more severe form.

"I would urge poultry keepers in the surrounding area to be vigilant for any signs of disease and to ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises."

It comes after a number of cases of avian influenza across Europe in recent months.

Restrictions in the Fife control zone have been imposed, including on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure and restrictions on bird gatherings.

Rita Botto, head veterinarian of Food Standards Scotland said: "On the basis of current scientific evidence, Food Standards Scotland's advice is that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers."

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Livestock owners and the general public should be assured that we are doing everything we can to control and prevent the spread of the disease.

"Any poultry producers who are concerned should immediately seek veterinary advice."

Dr Jim McMenamin, consultant epidemiologist and respiratory infection lead for Health Protection Scotland said: "Based on what we know about this strain of avian influenza and the actions that have been taken, the risk to human health in this case is considered very low.

"Health Protection Scotland continues to work closely with Animal Health throughout this investigation."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, speaking following a visit to a school in Glenrothes, Fife, said: "We're taking all appropriate precautionary steps.

"There are still tests being undertaken to identify the precise strain of bird flu. But the early view is that this is a low-pathogenic, low-severity strain.

"Nevertheless, there will be a humane cull of the birds in question. A one kilometre exclusion zone has been put in place so that we are able to limit any potential spread.

"But it's important to stress that the risk to human health is very, very low indeed. But we'll continue to take all of the appropriate steps to make sure that we contain this case."

"Obviously the farming industry will be concerned and that's why it's important we're giving them the information and the advice they need to know there's no need at this stage for any undue concern."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and Fife MSP Willie Rennie said: "Our thoughts are with the farmer who has already been affected by this outbreak. This will come as a hammer blow to their business.

"I have tabled a question in parliament to enable the minister to make a statement on Tuesday.

"It is important that we get all the answers we need over how this outbreak emerged.

"Where the chickens came from, how they contracted the disease, when it happened and what the consequences will be for the wider sector are big questions that need answered.

"Farmers across the country will also want to be reassured that the bio-security arrangements which are in place are robust and hear what plans there are to strengthen them."

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