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Avian influenza update

Published: 11 Jan 2016 18:19

First test results suggest very mild H5N1 strain.

A very mild strain of H5N1 avian influenza has been identified on a farm in Fife by initial test results, the Chief Veterinary Officer has said.

The results so far and the symptoms shown suggest it is a very mild strain of H5N1, less serious than other forms of the virus that have caused concern in recent years. However, further tests are being carried out to confirm precise details of the disease.

Swift precautionary action is already being taken to prevent the spread of disease, including a humane cull of birds on the broiler breeder farm near Dunfermline.

A one km Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) has also been put in place around the premises, which means restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure and restrictions on bird gatherings.

Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said:

"All the evidence so far suggests we are dealing with a very mild form of H5N1 avian influenza, which is not the same as the strain that has been causing problems in Asia and north Africa. Further tests are currently being carried out to confirm this but, in the meantime, we are taking no chances.

"As a precaution to prevent the spread of disease – and in line with our robust procedures for dealing with avian flu - we have already put in place movement restrictions around the farm and all birds on the premises will be humanely culled. Consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry given the expert advice about food safety and human health.

"We are looking into possible sources of this infection in Scotland but it is normal for such viruses to circulate among wild bird populations, especially waterfowl. However, it is important that poultry keepers remain vigilant for any signs of disease and to ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises."

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said:

"We have seen a number of cases of avian influenza across Europe in the past few months, including three separate cases in England in the past year or so, but it looks like we are dealing with a very mild strain here.

"The Scottish Government and our partners continue to do all we can to contain and prevent the spread of 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

Rita Botto, Head Veterinarian of Food Standard 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."

Notes to editors

The owner of a farm in Dunfermline at which a suspect case of avian influenza has been identified does not wish to be approached for comment or interview.

Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency (formerly AHVLA) office. Contact details can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/about-us/contact-us/field-services/

There
have been a number of recent cases of avian influenza across continental Europe in recent months including three cases in other parts of the UK in 2014-15. More information about Avian Influenza - including biosecurity guidance - is available from the Scottish Government website http://www.scotland.gov.uk/avianinfluenza

As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where five birds are found dead in the same location and at the same time.

In the United Kingdom, members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra's national helpline (Tel: 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).