Read more about bird flu (avian influenza)
Defra animal health laboratory has confirmed that the outbreak in East Yorkshire is the H5N8 strain. This is the same strain as that which has caused outbreaks among poultry in Germany and the Netherlands in the last week.
However there are no known records of this strain being detected in humans and the risk to public health remains very low.
Defra investigations continue. Over the next few days the outcome of tests on all poultry holdings within a 3km protection zone around the outbreak site will be known. The restrictions on movements of all poultry, products and waste and the restriction on the release of gamebirds within a 10km surveillance zone still apply, and a cull of 6000 ducks on the farm was due to be completed yesterday. These are important measures to minimise the risk of disease spread to other farms or into the wild bird population.
A field assessment around the outbreak site found low levels of wild bird activity. Although it is still unclear how this strain entered the UK, the possibility that wild birds were responsible continues to look unlikely.
It was disturbing to hear of the news of an outbreak of Avian Influenza in East Yorkshire on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme – there is a well rehearsed process for alerting the network of organisations, including us, in the event of a confirmed outbreak. But our notification did arrive later in the day.
In any event – it soon became clear that Monday would be busy in terms of media interest in the story and we would be drawn in not least because, from the start, official statements were implicating the movement of wild birds in the outbreak.
That all birds can catch bird flu is true ... that the disease can travel along with populations of wild birds is also beyond doubt, but slack assumptions about the cause of any outbreak before the facts are known is unhelpful and is a flame that is fanned by lazy journalism.
I dashed to the BBC studio in Cambridge yesterday evening, welcoming the opportunity to address the frankly unlikely idea that ‘swans from the east’ brought the virus to a commercial duck flock housed in a barn 24/7. The lessons from the outbreaks of the strain of the virus H5N1, a type that is known to carry human health risks should have been learned - don’t thrash around in speculation, establish the facts.
Yesterday was busy in the media office – my colleague Jess Chappell, our policy lead on Bird flu was equally occupied, here’s her summary of day 1.
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