Suffolk bird flu zone census

AN army of volunteers has visited more than 3,000 homes within the bird flu surveillance zone in a bid to prevent the virus spreading.

AN army of volunteers has visited more than 3,000 homes within the bird flu surveillance zone in a bid to prevent the virus spreading.

It came as Redgrave Poultry last night confirmed that turkeys found dead on a second farm in Botesdale had tested negative for the disease.

Defra said a poultry census was now underway in the 10km surveillance area set up around Redgrave Park Farm - where the highly-pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed earlier this week - to establish exactly how many birds were there.

Defra's regional operations director Heather Peck said: “We are still in what the chief veterinary officer has called a period of uncertainty.”

She said council workers had volunteered to help carry out this work and to give advice to residents on what to look out for.

Speaking to the EADT on a visit to the region, East of England minister Barbara Follett praised farmers for the way they had dealt with the current bird flu outbreak and the bluetongue cases earlier this year, as well as those now leading efforts to contain avian influenza.

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“This is a really professional operation. What is so impressive is seeing so many different agencies working with the owners of poultry,” she said.

“There is no sense of frantic activity but a great deal of care being taken regarding public safety.

“The stress for farmers must be immense. Everybody in this region must be congratulated for the way they have been stoic in what they have been through.”

All of the workers tested earlier this week have been declared clear of the disease.

Defra has traced every movement on and off Redgrave Park Farm, including checking feed lorries, waste trucks, straw trucks and rodent control workers.

Poultry at Grove Farm, Botesdale, was slaughtered on suspicion of having the virus after dozens of birds were found dead by officials. But tests on 30 birds showed they did not have the virus.

Redgrave Poultry's operations director Geoffrey Buchanan said no evidence of bird flu had been found at three other sites operated by the company in the wider restricted area where precautionary culls are underway.

All four premises share staff with Redgrave Park, and were being culled because of fears they had been exposed to the virus through workers.

Mr Buchanan said Defra began culling birds at Hill Meadow Farm, Knettishall, Suffolk, yesterday and would be starting culls at Stone House, West Harling, Norfolk, and Bridge Farm, Pulham Market, Norfolk, last night.

Acting chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said: “Whilst this is good news and we've had no more cases confirmed, we're still at a very early stage of this outbreak.”

Preliminary results on ducks and geese culled at Redgrave Park showed they also tested negative.