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UK: haiguse levikuks piisab mustadest jalanõudest

A 'dirty boot' was enough to breach bird flu defences
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

INFECTED faeces from a wild bird carried into a chicken shed on a workman’s boot are thought to be the most likely source of a bird flu outbreak on a farm in Norfolk.

Such a breach in biosecurity will be of major concern to Britain’s £3 billion-a-year poultry industry, which prides itself on the strict hygiene, cleansing and disinfecting standards observed on commercial farms.

Early indications were that the virus is probably the less virulent, low-pathogenic strain of the H7 flu which can devastate birds but is generally not a threat to human beings.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that confirmation of the precise strain and virulence of the virus would be delayed until today.

The bird flu case, at a farm at North Tuddenham, is the first in a British commercial unit since the deadly form of avian flu, the H5N1 virus, arrived in Europe. Poultry industry and tourism chiefs admitted that they were “extremely nervous” that the highly virulent H7 strain had arrived in the county. It could effectively close down many villages.

Poultry is worth £1 billion a year to Norfolk and 40,000 jobs depend on the industry. Free range farmers in the county immediately locked up their birds to protect them from the disease threat.

State vets and epidemiologists were urgently tracing possible sources of contamination at Witford Lodge Farm, one of 30 units in Norfolk run by Banham Poultry UK. A 1km surveillance zone was set up around the infected farm and movement restrictions were in place on all other premises operated by Banham.

Sources at the company said that the most likely reason for contamination was wild bird faeces picked up outdoors and carried into a chicken house on foot. A cull of 35,000 chickens on the farm will begin early today. All the birds will be humanely despatched. Each will be caught, stunned, then placed in a chamber where carbon monoxide will gas them.

The birds were breeding stock and not destined for the dinner table. Banhams is expected to claim as much as £100,000 in compensation for the cull. A Banhams spokesman insisted last night that staff followed the strictest possible bio-security rules. Birds and eggs were transported in company vehicles. Only two or three men worked on the infected farm.

Norfolk accounts for a third of British poultry production and farmers voiced their fears about the knock-on effects of the bird flu virus yesterday.

Mark Gorton, director of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, which has eighteen organic chicken and turkey farms, two of which are near Witford Lodge, said: “We are worried about it as it devastated the Dutch industry. We are keeping our fingers crossed it’s not going to spread.”

He said that the real worry was where the virus had come from. “The birds are inside so it can’t have been from a wild bird and if it was from a vehicle, where did the vehicle come from and where has it gone? “The poultry industry is a huge industry here, with an enormous amount of local suppliers and distributors. The knock-on effects would be very serious but we’re hoping that we’ll come out the other side.”

Paul Leveridge, who keeps about 15,000 ducks on a farm about two miles away in Mattishall, said: “Every poultry farmer is worried, especially as this is now in Norfolk, the heart of the poultry industry.”

The H7 flu virus has been found in chickens in northern Italy since 1999, but the last outbreak in the UK was in 1998 on a turkey farm in Northern Ireland.

Nigel Joice, the eastern region representative of the National Farmers’ Union poultry committee, said that while members were concerned they were not in a panic. Mr Joice, who runs a poultry farm in Fakenham, said that they were more worried that people would stop eating poultry than the outbreak. He said: “It’s not great, unfortunately. People associate it with a pandemic.”

Mr Joice said that the East Anglian industry was different from that in the Netherlands, where an outbreak of H7 strain of the virus wiped out a third of poultry and cost millions of euros in 2003. “We’ve learnt a lot of lessons since then and the Dutch poultry industry is a lot more densely populated than ours.”

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trüki see kood alumisse tühja lahtrisse. aitäh :)