Up to 30,000 turkeys on five farms have been culled as a precaution, after the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in turkeys on a Suffolk farm in the UK.
The bird flu infection was initially discovered on Sunday at Redgrave Park farm in the east of the country and it was later confirmed that the virus was the highly-contagious H5N1 strain.
A 1.9 mile protection zone and a 6.2 mile surveillance zone were immediately set up around the source. It has been forbidden to transport birds or bring poultry in contact with wild birds within the zone.
A precautionary cull of all birds is being carried out at four other farms in the area which have been linked to Redgrave Park. Acting chief vet Fred Landeg said it “was a precautionary measure taken to prevent any potential spread of the disease.”
The UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said there were more than 4 million registered farm birds within the surveillance zone, with a further 25 million within the restricted zone.
Early indications suggest that the outbreak is related to a bird flu strain found in the Czech Republic and Germany and could have been brought to the UK by a wild bird.
The National Farmers’ Union does not consider there to be a danger of turkey shortages over the Christmas period but the price of turkeys is expected to rise sharply as the cull of birds continues.
There was also an H5N1 outbreak at a Suffolk farm in February. Although a government report into that outbreak initially blamed wild birds, it later said that the most probable source of infection was imported turkey meat from Hungary.
The news comes as researchers at Retroscreen Virology, a medical research institute linked with Queen Mary’s College in London, announced that it had found a natural elderberry product to be at least 99% effective against the H5N1 bird flu virus.