Saturday, February 03, 2007

H5N1 Virus Strain Confirmed In UK Outbreak

2500 Poultry Dead On Suffolk Turkey Farm

When 1000 turkeys dropped dead, virtually overnight on a Suffolk turkey farm less than two days ago, it was suspected the avian influenza strain involved in the deaths would turn out to be the extremely lethal H5N1 strain.

And now it has been confirmed.

Plus, it isn't just any old turkey farm that has been infected with bird flu. It's the biggest farm in all of Europe. Extremely bad news.

The death toll at the Suffolk turkey farm has already reached 2500 dead birds, more are expected to die.

From CNN:
The European Commission on Saturday confirmed that an outbreak of bird flu on a farm in eastern England was the H5N1 strain.

The outbreak on a farm run by Europe's biggest turkey manufacturer Bernard Matthews has killed 2,500 birds, government officials said.

Government veterinary experts were called to the farm near Lowestoft in eastern England late on Thursday.

"All poultry farmers are in shock as we had no inkling that is had suddenly turned up in England," National Farmers' Union Poultry Board chairman Charles Bourns told Reuters.

"The last time sales dropped between two to three percent, but it was enough to affect the market place as there was a lot of discounting."

The farm has 160,000 turkeys, but only one of the 22 sheds that house the birds has so far been affected by the outbreak.

In May, 50,000 chickens at three farms in Norfolk, also in eastern England -- home to some of Europe's biggest poultry farms -- were culled and disposed of after the H7N3 strain of bird flu was detected.

A wild swan found dead in Scotland in March 2006 had the highly pathogenic H5N1 version of the bird flu virus which can kill humans. It was thought to have caught the disease elsewhere, died at sea and been washed ashore in Scotland.

Bourns said those two scares cost the British poultry industry 58 million pounds ($115 million) in 2006.

There will now be a massive cull of most, if not all, the turkeys on the Suffolk farm. It remains to be seen if this outbreak will frighten Brits off poultry, further damaging the industry.

I'm not a virologist, or epidemiologist, just an interested blogger, but if migratory birds are ruled out, and any birds in general that might have visited the farm, as being responsible for passing on the H5N1 virus to these turkeys, the authorities will probably start looking into the possibility of infected feral cats having passed on the virus.

But that's only a mildly-educated guess for now.

First Time H5N1 Has Been Found On A Commercial Property In The UK

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