Press release

Avian influenza (bird flu) identified at Lincolnshire farm

The risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made clear that bird flu is not a food safety risk.

Avian flu of the H5N8 strain has been confirmed in turkeys at a farm near Louth in Lincolnshire today (16 December).

Most birds at the premises have died - any remaining birds there will be humanely culled. We have put in place a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The advice from Public Health England (PHE) is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

There is not anticipated to be any impact on the supplies of turkeys or other birds over Christmas.

Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said:

Avian flu has been confirmed on a turkey farm in Lincolnshire. This is the same strain that has been affecting poultry in Europe. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all remaining poultry at the farm will be culled.

Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.

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

A PHE spokesperson said:

Avian flu (often called bird flu) is primarily a disease of birds. There have never been any recorded cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to public health is considered very low. We continue to work closely with Defra throughout this investigation. Despite the risk being very low, we will offer health advice to those people who may have been exposed on the farm as a precaution.

The Prevention Zones (housing orders) put in place on Tuesday 6 December remains in place in England, Scotland and Wales, including within the Protection and Surveillance Zones. Poultry and captive bird keepers should continue to house their birds, where practicable, maintain their biosecurity and remain vigilant about the health of their birds.

A detailed investigation is in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

Notes to editors

  1. The restrictions in place mean that all premises with poultry and/or captive birds within the zones will continue to house their birds, if possible. The movement of birds, mammals and other things, such as carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure, on or off premises where poultry is present and out of the zones are banned except under licence. No gatherings of poultry or the release of game birds are also allowed in the zones. Information on the restriction measures in place within the zones can be found at GOV.UK.

  2. More than 5,000 birds at the farm have been affected. Industry estimates we consume approximately 10 million turkeys over Christmas.

  3. The most recent previous case of avian influenza confirmed in the UK was at a poultry farm in Dunfermline on 13 January 2016. The virus was contained to a single farm and eradicated very quickly.

  4. Suspected disease should be reported to APHA offices immediately on 03000 200 301

  5. Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although clinical signs vary between species of bird.

  6. Where avian influenza (or Newcastle Disease) is not strongly suspected, but cannot be ruled out, poultry keepers may wish to liaise with their private veterinarian about utilising the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) ‘testing for exclusion’ regime in GB. This involves submitting samples to a testing service at the APHA’s National Reference Laboratory, Weybridge and can help detect a notifiable avian disease at the earliest opportunity for such cases.

  7. Further information on biosecurity and how to prevent disease is available on GOV.UK.

  8. For further advice on Avian Influenza contact the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77. For media queries contact Defra press office on 020 8225 7618 or out of hours on 0345 051 8486.