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Public health fears allayed as bird flu found on UK farm

By Staff Reporter

The risk to people of a new outbreak of bird flu is "very low", Environment Secretary Liz Truss said as she insisted the Government had taken immediate action to prevent the spread of the disease.

Ms Truss confirmed to MPs that the virus identified at a duck breeding farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire, is a "highly pathogenic" H5 version of the virus, but is not the H5N1 strain which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

The chief medical officer and Public Health England had confirmed the risk to public health of the virus was very low, Ms Truss said.

And she stated: "The Food Standards Agency have said it does not pose a risk for food safety for UK consumers. The chicken and turkey people eat continues to be safe."

A private vet first raised the alarm on Friday, before tests by Government vets confirmed the H5 strain. A 10km restriction zone has been put in place and all poultry on the farm is being culled in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.

"We have taken immediate and robust action to control this outbreak and prevent any potential spread of infection," Ms Truss said.

But experts warned there may be more cases of bird flu emerging in the coming days.

It is the first serious case of bird flu since 2008. Most types are harmless to humans but two types - H5N1 and H7N9 - have caused serious concerns.

Officials believe the outbreak may be linked to Germany and the Netherlands.

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned on Sunday after an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu at a chicken farm.

Meanwhile, Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has said the outbreak in England poses no risk to Northern Ireland's food chain.

"Since confirmation of the disease in Yorkshire, my staff have been in direct contact with key poultry industry representatives and stakeholders in the north of Ireland to advise them of the situation and to call for increased vigilance," she said. "While the situation will be kept under review, I would encourage bird keepers, as a precaution, to revisit their own contingency arrangements for housing birds should that be required."

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