Bird flu hits Suffolk

GOVERNMENT vets are today investigating an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm after hundreds of turkeys died in Suffolk.Experts were called to the Bernard Matthews factory in Holton late on Thursday following the outbreak of an unexplained illness.

GOVERNMENT vets are today investigating an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm after hundreds of turkeys died in Suffolk.

Experts were called to the Bernard Matthews factory in Holton late on Thursday following the outbreak of an unexplained illness.

Around 1,000 turkeys are thought to have died.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said preliminary tests had confirmed a bird flu outbreak.

But a spokeswoman said the risk of the disease spreading to humans was low and there was no need for panic.

She said staff at the site were being monitored and restrictions were in force to stop birds being moved in or out of the site.

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Defra has yet to say whether any exclusions zones will be set up and how many birds will have to be slaughtered.

Bernard Matthews Foods, which employs more than 1,000 people at Holton, issued a statement that said: “Bernard Matthews can confirm that one of the sheds at its Holton site is being investigated by Defra but no further details on the situation can be provided until the investigation is completed.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which has a public protection role, said: “We are aware that Defra are at an incident in north Suffolk but we do not have any other information as we are waiting to hear from Defra.”

A Defra spokesman said: “The State Veterinary Service has been investigating a case of suspected avian notifiable disease on a poultry farm in Suffolk.

“Preliminary tests have indicated that the avian influenza virus is present in samples from poultry found dead on the premises.

“These preliminary results show that it is the H5 strain of the virus but further confirmatory tests are in progress to identify the strain more fully, and more will be known today .

It is the second time in less than 12 months that UK-reared poultry has been hit by bird flu.

More than 30,000 birds were slaughtered after chickens in North Tuddenham, near Dereham, Norfolk, tested positive in April.

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