UK government vets have confirmed infection with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in 2600 turkeys that died on a Suffolk farm owned by the Bernard Matthews company. The 159,000 turkey flock will have to be culled with all the risks that entails to prevent the disease spreading further.
According to a statement from the European Commission a protection zone of 3 km radius and a 10 km surveillance zone will be established around Holton, a village about 25 km south-west of Lowestoft.
This is the first time H5N1 has been identified in the UK on a commercial property. A previous outbreak of avian influenza was H7 that required a cull of 50000 fowl to be culled.
There are fifteen known variants of avian influenza. The most virulent, and usually fatal in birds, are H5 and H7 strains. There are then nine variants of the H5 strain and the type of most concern because of the risk to human health is H5N1. While H5N1 can be fatal in humans it has not yet mutated into a form that can be transmitted from person to person.
According to virologist John Oxford of the Queen Mary College, University of London, “I don’t think it has made any difference as a threat to the human population.”
Meanwhile, Channelnewsasia.com today reports yet another outbreak of H5N1 in Japan, the fourth this year.