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MP’s avian influenza letter reveals concerns over virus

a broiler chicken

A LETTER by Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman to incoming Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey has revealed the anxiety that the outbreak is causing some constituents.

People have contacted the MP, having lost thousands of birds, listing concerns over the viability of farm businesses and calling for birds to be vaccinated against AI.

See also: Biosecurity remains key to keeping out avian influenza

Over the past month, there have been close to 100 outbreaks of avian influenza across the UK, with most centralised in East Anglia.

Mr Freeman said there had been several outbreaks in his constituency, describing the issue as “a very urgent crisis”.

“A number of local farmers have made it clear that, unless urgent action is taken to tackle the crisis and support businesses, they will go under.

“Conservationists are warning that local bird populations will be completely devastated too, with some even becoming extinct.”

He listed several comments from constituents, which we have printed below.

  • Within our business, we now have four confirmed cases, with more suspects awaiting testing. So far, we have lost over 100,000 birds and I fear that this could get worse. Other poultry businesses in the area have lost hundreds of thousands. By the end of this, it will without any doubt be in the millions.”
  • “The situation is completely out of control and is getting worse by the day. We have lost count of the number of farms in our area that have been infected, and it is impossible to decipher the APHA interactive map listing all the sites – there are so many. Farmers are losing their livelihoods, and businesses and employers are in jeopardy.”
  • “This is a major incident and needs to be treated as such with some sort of coordinated action or crisis management.”
  • “We need to change the way farmers are compensated for their losses and to put this in line with compensation for notifiable diseases in other species where farmers get paid the full value of all stock on their farms, rather than simply for animals culled, as is the case in poultry.”
  • “The answer to stop this disease is simple: we have to vaccinate. It is my understanding that there are vaccines available that could be used, but it is legislation that is holding things up. We need government help to make this happen.”
  • “My son works for a local hatchery. They have been hit with a suspected case of bird flu, and if tested positive they stand to lose the entire flock… Without vaccination or similar there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the local poultry industry, which is a big part of our local economy.