November 15, 2007

Bird 'flu again

Infectious diseases of livestock are in the headlines again; this time it’s highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), specifically H5N1. The thing to stress (and media coverage in the UK has tended not to stress this enough) is that the risk to human health is minimal, and that properly-cooked poultry meat remains safe.

H5N1 HPAI is a serious and highly infectious disease of birds. There is real concern that it might get into the wild bird population in the UK (which would make control tricky), as that would put many free-range birds at risk. That’s why the infected unit has been culled out, and protection and surveillance zones put into place. Currently, however, it isn’t transmitting to other species very readily. The human cases have been in Asia, where people live cheek-by-jowl with large numbers of infected birds.

Poultry keepers need to remain vigilant; if you don’t keep birds, the only thing you should do is keep an eye out for groups of dead birds (more than 3 of the same species or more than 5 of different species in a small area) – if you see these, don’t touch them, but instead call DEFRA on 08459 335577.

More information on the current outbreak may be found at the DEFRA website.

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