Advice To Farmers Over Bird Flu

Scottish farmers are being urged to be extra-vigilant after a case of bird flu was confirmed south of the border.

The virus has been identified at a duck breeding farm in Nafferton, near Driffield in East Yorkshire, and is a ''highly pathogenic'' H5 version of the virus, not the H5N1 strain which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

Health officials have said more cases may emerge in the coming days but the risk to the public is very low.

It is the first serious case of bird flu since 2008, and officials believe the latest outbreak may be linked to Germany and the Netherlands and the transport of poultry and eggs.

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead wants poultry producers to take care.

He said: "The Scottish Government is closely monitoring the case of avian influenza on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, and I note the immediate and robust response by the authorities in England to prevent any potential spread of infection.

"My officials have been liaising closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) who have made it clear the public health risk is very low - and that they have ruled out the H5N1 strain that is infectious for humans.

"Furthermore, the latest Food Standards Agency advice is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

"Although avian influenza has been confirmed in England only, I urge Scottish poultry producers to stay vigilant for any signs of disease - and my officials have this afternoon updated industry representatives and other key stakeholders with the latest information and veterinary advice.

"The Scottish Government is continuing to work closely with our counterparts and delivery partners across the UK and we stand ready to take appropriate action as required.''

A 10km (six-mile) restriction zone has been put in place and all poultry on the farm is being culled in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease, Defra said.

Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: "As always, all poultry keepers should continue their efforts to maintain high levels of biosecurity and monitor their birds for any signs of disease.

"Avian influenza is a notifiable disease, and so any suspicion should be reported immediately to the nearest animal health office.

"As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance, post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where five birds are found dead in the same location and at the same time.

"Members of the public are asked to report any such incidents by calling the Defra national helpline on 08459 33 55 77. Scottish Government advice is not to handle dead wild birds where possible.''

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