United Kingdom

Thousands of chickens to be culled after bird flu outbreak at farm in northwest

Thousands of chickens are set to be slaughtered after a bird flu outbreak was confirmed at a commercial farm in the northwest of England.

A 3km prevention zone has been set up after the virus was identified at a site in Helsby, near Frodsham in Cheshire – with around 13,500 birds to be culled.

After a positive case came to light on Monday, testing confirmed a highly pathogenic strain of the avian flu related to a strain currently making its way through Europe.

It is unconnected to Covid-19 and public health officials have emphasised the risk to the public is “very low”, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Around 13,500 chickens will be humanely culled

Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, remain safe to eat.

All premises with poultry and/or captive birds will be kept isolated, outside of the prevention zone, to prevent contact with wild birds.

The movement of birds, mammals and other things, such as carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure, on or off premises where poultry is present and out of the zones are banned except under licence.

Around 13,500 birds at the farm will be humanely culled to limit the spread of the disease.

Public Health England and local health protection teams are also involved, who said the human risk of infection is very low for the general population, and low for those immediate contacts on site.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Animal and Plant Agency (APHA), Public Health England (PHE) and other partners in dealing with the outbreak.

The council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, Councillor Karen Shore, said: “Public Health England have confirmed the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.

“We are working locally to support residents, local businesses and premises who may be affected as well as providing information to help manage the infection.”

A Food Standards Agency spokesperson said: “Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, remain safe to eat.”

Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although clinical signs vary between species of bird.

H5N8 avian influenza is currently circulating in wild birds and poultry in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, causing clinical signs in affected birds.

This led to the risk level being raised to medium for the incursion into the UK through the movement of wild birds. These viruses are in no way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is not carried in poultry.


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