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UK supports EU effort to track high pathogenic avian influenza virus

by 5m Editor
13 October 2005, at 12:00am

UK - A poultry sample sent to the UK from Turkey has proved positive for the high pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 strain virus.

The H5 virus has also been found in Romania, though we do not yet know whether it is the same strain.

The situation in Turkey is the first time this particular flu strain - which is the one found in Asia known to be transmissible in rare cases between birds and humans - has been found so close to Europe.

The Turkish Government and the European Commission were informed as soon as the results of the tests, carried out at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Surrey, were known.

The outbreak in Turkey occurred in an out-door turkey farm with 1,800 birds, 1700 of which died after the first clinical signs were detected in early October. All the remaining birds on the farm in Balikesir, in the north-western part of Anatolia, have been killed and all carcasses destroyed.

The Turkish authorities have already undertaken a programme to slaughter all poultry in the affected area to limit the spread of the disease while the EU has banned imports of poultry products from Turkey.

In Romania, an H5 virus has been found in a duck and a chicken in a backyard flock in the Danube delta. Results from further tests to find out the exact strain of virus will be available in a few days. The Romanians have introduced movement restrictions and culled birds to prevent disease spread.

They have also banned all exports of poultry and poultry products as a precautionary step. The EU will now put in place import restrictions similar to those in place for Turkey.

Defra's chief vet Dr Debby Reynolds, who is working closely with public health officials at the Department of Health and the Heath Protection Agency, today announced that a rapid risk assessment would be carried out.

The Government is prepared should avian influenza be confirmed in poultry in the UK. A full contingency plan is in place and the Government has eradicated avian influenza and other bird diseases in the past.

Dr Debby Reynolds, said: "Confirmation that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in Turkey and that avian influenza is now also in Romania is of concern. It shows that there is a risk to the UK and this is a developing situation, which we are monitoring closely.

"We will now carry out an assessment immediately to determine what the risk is and whether any further measures need to be taken. We will work with the EU Commission and other Member States. The last time the UK had an outbreak of Avian Flu was in 1992 when it was successfully brought under control and eradicated.

"The key to tackling the disease is to detect it early and stop it spreading. We have already enhanced our surveillance of wild birds, working with other Member States, and we have a full public contingency plan in place for tackling any outbreak.

"Any suspicion of disease should be reported immediately. All poultry keepers must strengthen their biosecurity and make a plan to protect the health of their birds."

Source: Defra - 13th October 2005

5m Editor