TESTING has confirmed that the H5N8 outbreak of avian influenza on a Cheshire broiler breeder farm is highly pathogenic, and related to outbreaks in Europe.

Defra said that the breeder site housing 13,000 birds close to Frodsham, Cheshire, had tested positive for the virus on Monday evening (2 November).

See also: Warning over avian influenza returning to Europe this winter

All 13,000 birds on the farm will be culled to limit the spread of the disease.

3km and 10km temporary control zones have been put in place around the infected site to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Avian flu has been confirmed at a commercial farm near Frodsham in Cheshire.

“Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading, and all remaining poultry at the farm will be culled.”

It added that the outbreak was not connected to an earlier case of low-path H5N2 avian influenza on a small commercial poultry operation in Kent.

The risk of avian influenza hitting north-west Europe this winter is considered higher than in other years after outbreaks in Russia in late summer and early autumn.

The Netherlands announced last week that a broiler breeder farm close to Arnhem had tested positive for H5N8 and that authorities would cull 35,700 birds to contain the virus.

Since then, Wageningen Bioveterinary Research has said the virus has now been detected in dead wild birds in the provinces of Utrecht, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and Friesland.

That suggests the virus is already endemic in wild bird populations in the country.

And wild bird screening in Germany has detected the virus in a wild duck in Hamburg, a common buzzard in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and various wild birds in Schleswig-Holstein.

Ms Middlemiss added: “Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.