Bird flu effort reaches new level

VOLUNTEER staff from all departments at Suffolk's Endeavour House headquarters were today joining trading standards officers to try to defeat bird flu in Suffolk.

VOLUNTEER staff from all departments at Suffolk's Endeavour House headquarters were today joining trading standards officers to try to defeat bird flu in Suffolk.

About 30 extra staff were drafted in from desk jobs in Ipswich to join trading standards officers visiting premises in the control zones near the original outbreak at Redgrave on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

Three other farms had their birds culled yesterday because staff had travelled between them. Initially it was not thought that the disease itself had spread.

But later it was announced that scientists believed the disease had spread to a farm at Botesdale - next to Redgrave - which is part of the Redgrave Farms company.

However while there were signs that the disease had spread through human contact, there is as yet no sign that it has got into the wild bird population.

County council officials are helping civil servants from the government's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who are trying to manage the outbreak.

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County spokesman Francis Thomas said: “We are visiting people with poultry and telling them how they should be keeping their birds inside.

“We are issuing notices, and if necessary offering assistance to them. It is not always easy to move a few free-range birds into a shed.

“We asked for volunteers to help the trading standards team during this situation, and about 30 people from all departments have volunteered to help out,” he said.

DEFRA has asked people in the area to monitor any dead wild birds they find - but so far none has tested positive for the lethal H5N1 virus.

The incubation period of the disease is up to five days - so if no wild birds are found in the next 48 hours there will be hopes that bird flu has been confined to the two farms on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

POULTRY keepers were today reminded to house their birds as animal health experts tried to get on top of the bird flu outbreak in Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council issued an advisory note to poultry keepers in the controlled zones around Redgrave stating that if they are directed by a veterinary inspector on welfare or other grounds to isolate their birds instead of housing them, they must:

ensure there is no contact with poultry or captive birds on other premises

cover all food and water so there is no access for wild birds

minimise contact with wild birds and use wild bird deterrents

have stringent biosecurity controls in place

check the welfare of birds daily for signs of disease, and

report any signs of disease to a vet immediately or to Animal Health at Bury St Edmunds on 01284 778150.

For information about the control zones and the latest news, please check the DEFRA website at www.defra.gov.uk or the Suffolk County Council website at www.suffolk.gov.uk.

THERE remains no sign in the wild bird population of the presence of avian flu, the RSPB said today.

Wardens for the charity have been checking reserves throughout Suffolk and Norfolk every day since the latest outbreak of H5N1 but no fatalities have yet been found - a sign the RSPB says suggests wild birds are not to blame.

Ciaran Nelson, RSPB spokesman, said: "We've stepped up surveillance on all of our reserves throughout Norfolk and Suffolk and we've seen nothing yet.

"We're saying don't point the finger of blame at wild birds yet.”

Mr Nelson said if wild birds had brought the disease to England bird carcasses would have been located by now, particularly since tens of thousands of ducks, geese and swans have migrated to England this season.

He said: "The fact we're not seeing this disease spread through wild birds is a good sign.

"Our wardens are out on our reserves every day."

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