Cull begins at Suffolk farm after bird flu suspected

VETS have begun a cull of poultry on a fifth farm where bird flu is suspected, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said today.

VETS have begun culling poultry on a Suffolk property suspected of having bird flu.

The premises, which are in the current surveillance zone and just outside the original 3km protection zone, have been designated a dangerous contact site, said the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

It is the sixth premises at which poultry has been culled and the fifth to be declared a dangerous contact zone.

Defra said the birds at the Suffolk property are being culled as a precaution.

A total of 56,000 ducks, 9,000 turkeys and 3,000 geese have been culled at the latest premises.

The property is operated by Redgrave Poultry, which runs the other four sites declared dangerous contact zones, as well as Redgrave Park farm, where the initial outbreak was discovered.

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Defra said the latest cull is in line with contingency plans and a veterinary assessment of the risk.

Fred Landeg, acting chief veterinary officer, said: “This decision has been taken based on new information which indicates the possibility that the poultry on this premise may have been exposed to infection.

“I can not emphasise enough that it is essential all poultry keepers practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to their local animal health office.”

The national ban on bird gatherings remains in place, and movement restrictions apply in the protection, surveillance and restricted zones, Defra said.

Bird keepers in these zones are required to house or otherwise isolate their birds from wild birds.

Today's announcement follows confirmation that turkeys culled at two farms because of fears they had been exposed bird flu tested negative for the disease.

Stone House, in West Harling, and Bridge Farm, in Pulham, both in Norfolk, were among the farms were birds were killed after fears they had dangerous contact with an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 avian flu in Redgrave, Suffolk.

But yesterday Defra said initial tests on the turkeys were negative for the virus.

Tests on Monday showed birds at Hill Meadow Farm in Knettishall on the Norfolk/Suffolk border had been infected with H5N1.

Another of the farms, Grove Farm, Botesdale, Suffolk, close to the first infected site, was upgraded to a slaughter on suspicion of having the disease last week after dozens of birds were found dead by officials.

Initial tests on 5,500 turkeys slaughtered found the premises was free of disease.