Wild Birds 'Most Likely Cause' Of Flu Outbreak

Indirect contact with wild birds is the most likely cause of a mild bird flu outbreak on a poultry farm in Fife earlier this year, an investigation has concluded.

About 40,000 birds were culled after a case of H5N1 avian influenza was identified among chickens in January.

A one-kilometre protection zone was put in place around Craigies Poultry Farm near Dunfermline following the case. The restrictions were later lifted after the cull.

The Scottish Government said "swift and robust contingency measures'' to contain and control the infection were successful and there have been no further cases of avian influenza in Scotland.

Poultry producers have been urged to remain vigilant following the results of the official investigation.

Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: "Investigations have concluded that indirect contact with wild birds is the most likely source of the case of very mild avian influenza near Dunfermline.

"Tests also found it was a different strain of H5N1 to those previously seen on the continent.

"We know that infections such as this constantly circulate in wild bird populations at a very low level and therefore remain a constant, low-level threat to poultry in Scotland.

"That is why I am writing to all registered poultry keepers in Scotland with advice about how to maintain good biosecurity on their farm.''

It comes as the Scottish Government publishes a new five-year strategy aimed at further protecting animal health and welfare in the livestock industry.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland is renowned for high standards of animal health and welfare.

"They are the foundation of our £1.6 billion livestock industry which supports 35,000 jobs. We must therefore do all we can to safeguard animal welfare and protect ourselves from the threat of disease.

"But we cannot be complacent - as demonstrated by the recent outbreak of very mild bird flu at a broiler-breeder unit near Dunfermline.

"It is thanks to the company and its private vet that the infection was caught at a very early stage which undoubtedly was a major factor in preventing its spread and ensuring it could be quickly stamped out.

"This isolated case highlights the importance of constant watchfulness and good biosecurity, and the need for individual keepers, industry and the authorities to continue to work together.''

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