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Bird flu outbreak: Protection zone declared in Warwickshire after disease detected

Written by on 8 November 2021

A 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone have been declared in Warwickshire after an outbreak of the deadliest H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The protection measures will require anyone who keeps poultry in these areas to isolate the birds and strictly record the name and address of anyone who visits them.

In the declaration signed on Monday, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs said: “The Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed that highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 is present in England.”

It follows a prevention zone being declared across whole of the UK last week to prevent the virus from spreading among poultry.

Poultry during the Fur and Feather judging at the 39th North Yorkshire County Show on the Camp Hill Estate in Yorkshire 18/6/2017 Image: Bird flu outbreaks can devastate populations of poultry. File pic.

The H5N1 subtype of flu is considered to be a highly pathogenic and fast-mutating strain, making it challenging to immunise people against.

According to World Health Organisation data, between 2003 and 2021 there were 456 deaths caused by 863 infections, giving the disease a 52% case fatality rate.

This is much higher than the COVID-19 global case fatality rate of around 2%, although epidemiologists caution against establishing the fatality rate by diving the number of known deaths by the number of confirmed cases.

The H5N1 flu can and has caused severe economic damage for farmers. Outbreaks in East Asia have in some cases led to the deaths of millions of birds.

The measures in the 10km surveillance zone don’t require people to isolate their poultry, but they must also keep detailed records of their movements and visitors.

Any movement of poultry or eggs out of the surveillance zone needs to be licensed by a veterinary inspector.

Similar outbreaks have been detected in Europe, with France raising its risk level to “high” on Friday as cases were reported in Italy, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

Bird flu has been detected in captive birds and wild birds at multiple sites in the UK. File pic Image: Prevention measures to tackle bird flu were introduced last week. File pic.

More than 10,000 turkeys were culled at a farm in North Yorkshire ahead of Christmas last year due to an outbreak of a different strain there, H5N8.

Bird flu affects a number of species of birds, including geese, ducks, turkeys and chickens.

Because birds do not always get sick if they are infected with the illness, seemingly healthy birds can pose a risk to people who come into contact with them.

It is spread through direct contact with infected birds (either dead or alive), their droppings, or secretions from their eyes or respiratory tract.

The virus is not transmitted through cooked food.

The NHS says poultry and eggs are safe to eat in areas that have experienced outbreaks, although the movement of poultry to slaughterhouses is still overseen by veterinary inspectors.