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Vigilance urged in wake of confirmation of AI in Turkey

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

UK - Increased vigilance has been urged by the NFU following a confirmed outbreak of the H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza (AI) in Turkey today (October 13, 2005).

If Avian Influenza, which primarily affects birds not humans, were to arrive on British shores, it could bring potentially disastrous consequences for the British poultry industry. The NFU is urging poultry farmers to tighten already rigorous biosecutiry measures.

NFU Poultry Board Chairman Charles Bourns said: “Most farmers have already heightened their biosecurity measures following news reports about possible AI in Romania and Turkey. The confirmation of an outbreak in Turkey today means those farmers that haven’t tightened their procedures should do so immediately. Poultry enclosures, houses and surrounding areas need to be kept as clean as possible in order not to attract wild birds. Clothes, vehicles and boots should be cleaned and disinfected as appropriate.

“In addition, I want to assure the British public that we as an industry are taking, and are prepared to take, all necessary steps to protect our flocks from disease. UK poultry products remain disease-free and safe for consumers. The World Health Organisation has advised there is no health risk from well-cooked poultry meat or from eggs.

“The NFU is working closely with Defra, while surveillance of Avian Influenza has been stepped up across Europe. This should act as an early warning system for any potential outbreak.”

Facts about Avian Influenza

  1. Avian Influenza is primarily a disease of birds. The high pathogenic H5N1 AI strain has not shown the ability to move easily between humans.
  2. Poultry and game is safe to eat. The Food Standards Agency considers that the outbreak of avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. This is because the risk of catching the disease in humans is from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease and not through eating poultry. There have been no reports of people handling poultry meat getting infected. The WHO has also advised that there is no health risk from well-cooked poultry meat or from eggs.
  3. Farmers have been on high alert since July, as the UK recently experienced a case of Newcastle disease - another viral disease of birds. This disease was contained and did not spread to any other farms. The NFU and Defra are advising poultry farmers that clothes, vehicles and boots should be cleaned and disinfected as appropriate.
  4. For the past two years there has been an ongoing survey of wild and domestic bird populations. The UK has not recorded any instances of Avian Influenza during this time.
  5. Defra has a contingency plan in place if there is an outbreak of Avian Influenza in the UK. The NFU and other stakeholders have been discussing this plan with the Government for three and a half years. The NFU believes the UK is much better prepared than 5 years ago and that the Government has a good understanding of how the poultry sectors work and are structured.
  6. A comprehensive Q and A regarding Avian Influenza can be found on the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/qanda.htm
Source: National Farmers Union - 13th October 2005

5m Editor