The Food Standards Agency has stated the chances of humans getting bird flu through the food chain are very low

A commercial farm in Suffolk has recorded the first case of avian influenza in Great Britain since 2017, with 27,000 chickens set to be culled.

According to Defra, a low pathogenic avian flu of the H5 strain was confirmed yesterday (10 December).

The farm in Athelington near Eye, owned by Oxfordshire-based broiler breeder PD Hook, is now surrounded by a 1km restriction zone set up to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

“All of the birds will be humanely dispatched and all eggs from that flock will be destroyed,”  said a PD Hook spokesman. “The company is now following the protocols laid down by DEFRA,” it added. 

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected diseases immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises,” said chief veterinary office Christine Middlemiss.

“We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this strain to control and eliminate it.”

Defra added an investigation was now underway to determine the source of the outbreak.

Middlemiss’ advice was echoed by the British Poultry Council, which said it was working with Defra to help monitor and limit the risk of the disease spreading.

“The health of our birds remains the priority for BPC member businesses up and down the country. I would like to urge all commercial and non-commercial producers to maintain effective biosecurity on their premises,” said BPC CEO Richard Griffiths.

The low pathogenic avian influenza causes mild breathing problems but not all birds show clear signs of infection.

There is also said to be little risk to human health, with the Food Standards Agency stating the chances of getting bird flu through the food chain are very low. It has advised consumers that thoroughly cooked poultry and eggs are safe to eat.

The last bird flu outbreak occurred over the winter of 2016/17. Outbreaks of the pathogenic H5N8 strain across Europe, followed by cases at two different farms, led Defra to implement an avian flu prevention zone across England from early December until the end of February.

Similar orders were implemented by the Scottish and Welsh governments, while a Great Britain-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings was also put in place.