127,000 ducks killed in desperate bid to stop latest bird flu outbreak from spreading in Norfolk, UK
A cull of 127,000 ducks has begun in a desperate bid to stop the UK’s latest outbreak of deadly bird flu from spreading.
The highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza has infected a flock being reared for Britain’s largest duck producer Gressingham Foods at Ickburgh, near Thetford, Norfolk.
The birds on the farm, and three other linked duck farms in the same village, all operated by Green Label Poultry, are being slaughtered over the coming days as fears grow over the spread of the disease.
The case follows an earlier outbreak 10 days ago which led to 8,000 ducks being culled on another Gressingham farm around 15 miles away at Great Ellingham, near Attleborough.
Another two outbreaks led to the culling of 55,000 turkeys shortly before Christmas on farms near Snetterton, Norfolk, and King’s Lynn.
Last month it was also revealed that 10,500 turkeys were being culled after an outbreak at a fattening premises in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
Today, the road leading to the farms in Ickburgh were closed with barriers and yellow tape warning: ‘No entry. Animal Disease Control Precautions.’
Two security guards manned one of the barricades and turned away motorists to ensure that the cull continued away from prying eyes.
Workers in white protection suits could be seen gathering in the early morning mist in the area of one of the duck rearing units.
A lorry thought to have been carrying the carcasses of some of the culled ducks for disposal was also pictured leaving the area.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that all ducks on the premises in multiple sheds, an estimated 127,000 birds, started to be humanely culled on Wednesday.
A Defra spokesperson added: ‘All carcases from the site will be removed and rendered at a local plant.’
Gressingham Foods which is based in Debach, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, started producing its Gressingham ducks, a cross between Peking and wild mallard breeds, in 1989.
A spokesman for the company which reportedly produces eight million ducks a year said the latest cull was ‘heartbreaking’ for its farming teams and financially damaging for the business.
But he insisted that it would not have a major impact on its supplies for customers.
The spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the authorities and with our customers, and supplies to our customers won’t be affected in any big way.
‘It is clearly going to be challenging for the business over the next three to four weeks, but we have got plans in place that mitigate any of these losses in volume.
‘This AI strain seems to be particularly virulent this year. We take our biosecurity very seriously and we run the highest hygiene standards across all our farms, so how this is getting into poultry sheds – across all sectors of the poultry industry, not just ducks – is very difficult to ascertain.’
Defra set up a protection zone around the infected premises in Ickburgh, imposing extra biosecurity measures and restricting the movement of poultry, eggs and meat within 3.4km after the outbreak was discovered on Monday.
A wider surveillance zone with lesser restrictions stretching out to 10.4km from the farms has also been imposed.
Both zones are slightly larger than usual to cover all four sites to limit the risk of the disease spreading.
Defra introduced tough new nationwide measures to combat bird flu on December 14 amid fears that it could hit the supply of Christmas turkeys.
Under the measures, all poultry flocks including free range birds are having to be kept indoors in England, Scotland and Wales to keep them separate from potentially infectious wild birds.
The strict new lockdown-style measures, which were introduced earlier in the Netherlands, even apply to people with hens in coops or garden pens.
Gary Ford, the East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘This is further concerning news for our region’s vital poultry sector.
‘It highlights just how great a threat avian influenza currently poses to birds. We would urge all poultry keepers to remain vigilant, to maintain enhanced biosecurity and to report any signs of disease in their birds to their vet or the Animal and Plant Health Agency.’
Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the bird flu virus is very low and it is unconnected the coronavirus pandemic.
The Food Standards Agency has also advised that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.
Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk