Highly Infectious Strain of Bird Flu Found on Two More English Turkey Farms

December 7, 2020 Updated: December 7, 2020

Bird flu has been found on two turkey farms in Norfolk, the UK government confirmed over the weekend.

The “highly pathogenic” H5N8 strain of avian flu was found on Friday at a farm near Attleborough then at another farm on Saturday near King’s Lynn.

Public Health England has advised the government that the risk to humans is low, and food standards agencies have said that eggs and poultry consumption is not affected.

British turkeys
Bronze turkeys are seen at a farm in southern England, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

Following several other incidences of H5N8 infection across England in November, new measures to protect poultry and captive birds were announced in a statement from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Thursday and will come into force across England, Scotland, and Wales from Dec. 14.

The measures to limit the spread and wipe out the disease make it a legal requirement for all bird keepers across Great Britain to keep their birds indoors or otherwise prevent them from coming into contact with wild birds, which can pass the disease to captive birds.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds,” the head veternary officers of England, Scotland, and Wales said a joint statement.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Exclusion Zones

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said three-kilometre protection and 10-kilometre surveillance zones have been set up around both the affected Norfolk turkey farms, where the names and addresses of visitors to premises where birds are kept and the movement of eggs and poultry have to be recorded (pdf).

The Norfolk H5N8 cases follow outbreaks at several other sites across England in November: one at a site in Cheshire, one in Herefordshire, one in Gloucestershire, one in Leicestershire, and one in North Yorkshire. The strain was also found at a second site in North Yorkshire on Dec. 1.

To curb the spread, birds were culled at each location where H5N8 was detected.

“In each case, Defra has acted quickly to cull affected birds and to introduce movement restrictions to limit the risk of the disease spreading,” Defra said.

The Secretary of State declared the whole of Great Britain an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on Nov. 11, which introduced a number of biosecurity measures for all poultry owners (pdf).

For large farms, in particular, requirements are around cleaning and disinfection of clothing, vehicles, and equipment, limiting non-essential people’s access to sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before going into bird enclosures.

Defra called on bird keepers and the public to report any dead wild birds they see to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and all keepers should report suspicion of disease to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on 03000 200 301.