Britain confirmed its first outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu in a domestic flock on Saturday, saying the virus has been detected on a farm owned by Europe’s largest turkey producer where 2,500 turkeys died.
As a precaution all 159,000 turkeys will be slaughtered on the farm in Holton in Suffolk, about 130 miles northeast of London, said Britain’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg. He said he expects the outbreak to be contained.Landeg said the virus was detected in only one of 22 turkey sheds on the farm, which is owned by Bernard Matthews PLC.
Workers have been offered antiviral drugs and are wearing protective clothing, said Health Protection Agency virologist Maria Zambon. She added that the virus does not transmit easily to humans and has not been found to be transmitted through food.
This is the first instance of H5N1 in Britain since a wild swan in Scotland was found to have the virus in March. Turkeys and chickens are more susceptible to H5N1 than wild birds, who can carry the disease over long distances without showing symptoms.
Bird flu has killed or prompted the culling of millions of birds worldwide since late 2003 when it first began ravaging Asian poultry stocks. It has killed at least 164 people worldwide, but remains difficult for humans to catch. Experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a global pandemic. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds.