Bird flu confirmed on farm in east England
LONDON (Reuters) - An outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed at a turkey farm in eastern England although the exact strain is not yet known, Britain's farm ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said preliminary results from the farm on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk were positive for the H5 strain but it is not known if it is the deadly H5N1 variety which has swept across Asia, Europe and Africa.
All birds at the farm, which also houses ducks and geese, will be culled and protection and surveillance zones are being set up, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement.
"Full confirmation of results, including whether or not this is H5N1 and whether the strain is high or low pathogenic will follow," the ministry added.
Britain had an outbreak of the H5N1 strain in February at a turkey farm in Suffolk, eastern England.
The virus has killed more than 200 people worldwide since 2003, most of them in Asia, and millions of birds either died from it or been killed to prevent its spread.
Outbreaks have caused temporary declines in poultry sales in several European countries during the last couple of years.
"It is obviously regrettable ahead of Christmas but there is no reason it should not be contained at this stage," Ian Jones, Director of Research at Reading University's School of Animal and Microbial Sciences said.
Turkeys provide Britain's traditional Christmas dinner.
"This is concerning but we need to know more about the strain; it is also important to know where it's come from," Colin Butter of the Institute of Animal Health said.
"At present DEFRA is doing the right thing and there is no cause for public worry," he added.
The news is a further setback for British farmers who have already suffered outbreaks of foot and mouth and bluetongue diseases this year.
"Obviously this is another huge blow to the farming industry...and we will be working closely with DEFRA to do all we can to contain and eradicate this disease as quickly as possible," National Farmers Union president Peter Kendall said.
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Peter Blackburn)
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