Bird flu: farmers' worrying times

ALTHOUGH the bird flu outbreak is miles away on the other side of Suffolk, these are worrying times for specialist poultry farmers like Robert Baker.

ALTHOUGH the bird flu outbreak is miles away on the other side of Suffolk, these are worrying times for specialist poultry farmers like Robert Baker.

Mr Baker has 1,000 turkeys at New Hall Farm, Crowfield.

At this time of the year he is busy taking orders and preparing to finish fattening them up in the run-up to Christmas.

Today he remains optimistic that his flock will not be affected by avian flu and said he has been impressed by the way DEFRA have dealt with the crisis.

He said: “They seem to have learned from previous disasters and got things right this time by sealing everything off once the disease was suspected.

“It doesn't seem to have spread, except to a farm that is part of the same operation as where it first broke out, and it has not been found in any wild birds.”

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Mr Baker does not have any birds loose in the open - his flock is kept in special sheds with mesh sides to prevent wild animals, including birds, from mixing with them.

“We've got the best of both worlds - shelter and protection from wildlife but natural light and ventilation.

“Everyone in the industry has to be very careful at the moment, but I am hopeful that the actions that were taken will contain this outbreak.”

Officials at DEFRA and Suffolk County Council were today hoping that the outbreak had now been contained. The incubation period for the virus is three to five days and officials were now hoping that there would be no further cases.

And Mr Baker said the outbreak had had an impact on his business: “It's put turkeys at the front of everyone's mind and I've had people ringing up early to order their Christmas lunch.

“It certainly doesn't seem to have put off anyone from eating turkey at this time of the year.”

N Ninety-five staff dealing with the avian flu outbreak in Suffolk have been offered the seasonal flu vaccination from health chiefs as well as anti-viral drugs because of fears the two viruses could mix and cause a human pandemic.

All employees involved in the culling operation, including the five Redgrave Poultry staff who worked

on the farms involved, have been given courses of anti-viral drugs.

Health experts believe the chances of any workers contracting the bird flu virus are extremely low.

But the common flu jab has also been offered to reduce the odds of the avian flu virus mixing with the common flu virus and therefore becoming infectious between humans.

N Is turkey still on your Christmas menu? How has bird flu affected you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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