Friday, November 16, 2007

As Bird Flu Returns To The British Countryside, Dark Rumours Sweep Farming Villages

'Precautionary' Culls Of Non-H5N1 Poultry Begins

The H5N1 virus is believed to have infected a second poultry farm in East Anglia. The culls are continuing, and authorities are not waiting for the virus to show itself before tens of thousands of birds are slaughtered.

According to this story in the Times Online, some 22,000 free-range turkeys were "loaded into mobile gas chambers" at four farms yesterday :

There was as yet no sign of the highly pathogenic avian influenza strain H5N1 among the flocks. Instead these birds had been condemned by the movements of a handful of workers between the farms and Redgrave Park Farm, the site of the original outbreak.

Fred Landeg, the acting chief veterinary officer, described the cull as a precautionary measure. Nevertheless, in villages on the Norfolk-Suffolk border the news provoked disquiet.

Rumours were running through the villages. The farmer said he’d heard that all the chickens born on Tuesday at a large commercial hatchery were gassed after news broke of the outbreak of H5N1. The hatchery denied this.

While officials sought the source of the outbreak, locals in the White Hart pub reached their own conclusions. “It’s all the wild birds that come here,” said David Bryan, 64, a retired builder from Redgrave.

Local ornithologists leapt to the wild birds’ defence. Paul Stancliffe, from the British Trust for Ornithology, which has its headquarters nearby in Thetford, said it could not be the wigeons because “they have been here since September”, and the swans on the lake appeared to be of British origin.

So where did the virus come from to get inside the UK?

This local news story says that the four farms where culls are taking place all shared the same workers. The H5N1 virus has been known to survive on workboots and clothing. They clearly fear that workers have carried the virus from one farm to another. That's how the story goes today anyway.

During the 'Bernard Mathews' outbreak earlier this year, turkey sales fell by one-third, with hundreds of jobs lost.

With outbreaks of blue tongue and foot and mouth, and now bird flu, many Brits will be having a vegetarian Christmas.

An Interesting 'Bird Flu In The UK' Timeline From BBC News

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