Bird flu: will it spread?

The cull begins at Nafferton
The cull begins at Nafferton

Farmers across the region have been warned to be on alert for more outbreaks of bird flu following the discovery of the virus at a farm in Nafferton this week.

The source of the virus is unknown, though a government report states it may have come from wild birds. They may have infected the straw used as bedding for the housed birds at the Lowthorpe Lane farm site.

More than 6,000 ducks on the farm have been culled as agencies battle to contain the outbreak.

A spokesman for government agency Defra said: “The cull was carried out in a safe and humane manner by fully trained staff. Our response to this outbreak follows tried and tested procedures for dealing with avian flu outbreaks.”

Health experts say the H5N8 virus is not spreadable to humans, but highly contagious among the bird population. The 6,000 ducks were gassed using carbon dioxide before being taken off site to be incinerated.

Meanwhile, a 10km restriction zone has been set up around the area in which all movements of poultry are banned.

However in The Netherlands, where 150,000 hens were destroyed following the discovery of an identical strain of bird flu, a ban on transport has been imposed across the entire country.

Nafferton has been the focus of the nation’s media since Monday morning with film crews and national newspaper journalists descending on the site to cover the first outbreak of bird flu in the UK since 2008.

Down in London, Nafferton MP Sir Greg Knight announced he was to meet Liz Truss, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in order to seek assurances that everything possible was being done to contain and eliminate the virus.

In the House of Commons, Beverley MP Graham Stuart posed a question to her, asking: “How will my right hon. Friend strike the balance between effective eradication of the problem and continued production, particularly in this festive season?”

She replied: “The best way for us to do that is to deal with this as swiftly as possible and make sure that we eradicate the disease.” The farm is operated by the UK’s largest producer of duck products, Cherry Valley Food Ltd, based at Caistor, near Grimsby.

The government report, prepared for the World Organisation for Animal Health in Paris, states the birds were 60 weeks old and had been showing signs of slightly raised mortality.

See pages 18 and 19 for villagers’ reactions and a time line of how the crisis unfolded.