CULLING is underway at a small commercial poultry holding in Kent after suspicions were raised that avian influenza could be present in the flock.
Defra confirmed that the strain present was a notifiable, low-path H5N2 strain of AI.
Over the weekend the decision was made to slaughter the flock on suspicion of avian influenza and impose a temporary 1km movement restriction zone around the site.
The farm, which is understood to have kept just under 500 birds, is just west of the seaside town of Deal, Kent.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Avian flu has been confirmed at a small commercial premises in Kent.
“Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all remaining poultry and captive birds at the farm will be culled.
“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
“There will be no impact on food supply as this business does not supply poultry meat or eggs to the commercial food chain.
“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.
“We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it.
The government said the risk level would remain unchanged – medium in wild birds and low in kept poultry, providing good biosecurity is in place.
There has already been a case of H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Netherlands this winter, following warnings that outbreaks in Russia in late summer would increase the risk to European farms.
Last week, authorities culled 37,500 broiler breeders on a Dutch farm following confirmation of the virus.
The last notifiable outbreak of bird flu in the UK was a low-pathogenic strain confirmed on 10 December 2019.
A year earlier wild birds were discovered with the H5N6 strain, but there were no cases confirmed in poultry.
The symptoms of avian influenza include:
- swollen head
- blue discolouration of neck and throat
- loss of appetite
- respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- fewer eggs laid
- increased mortality