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Dangerous strain of bird flu confirmed in 5,000 poultry on UK turkey farm

A dangerous strain of bird flu has been confirmed on a turkey farm in the UK - but Christmas supplies are not expected to be affected.

The disease was detected in more than 5,000 birds on a poultry farm near Louth in Lincolnshire, t he Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Public Health England (PHE) said the risk to the public is "very low".

It is the first confirmed case in Britain of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, which had already been circulating in countries across Europe, from Poland to France.

Birds on the farm which have not already died will be culled in order to prevent the disease spreading and a 3km protection zone has been put in place.

Around 10 million turkeys are consumed in the UK at Christmas, industry experts estimate, and there is not expected to be any impact on supplies during the festive period.

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: "Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all remaining poultry at the farm will be culled.

"Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

"Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.

"We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it."

A spokeswoman for PHE said: "Avian flu (often called bird flu) is primarily a disease of birds. There have never been any recorded cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to public health is considered very low.

"We continue to work closely with Defra throughout this investigation. Despite the risk being very low, we will offer health advice to those people who may have been exposed on the farm as a precaution."

Earlier this month "prevention zones" were declared in England, Scotland and Wales, requiring poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds inside, or take steps to separate them from wild birds.

Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: "I would strongly urge keepers to discuss their specific arrangements with their private vets, or local Animal and Plant Health Agency office, who are best placed to provide practical advice.

"Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately."

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