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Flu jabs for poultry workers

9th January 2007

01052006_birdflu1.jpgThe government is offering free flu jabs to people who work with poultry.

In an attempt to prevent new forms of bird flu emerging, more than 60,000 farmers, poultry workers and vets are to be offered vaccinations against seasonal influenza. Information packs are being sent to all registered poultry and approved slaughterhouses in England.

The Department of Health has said it hopes the move will stop those who work with birds catching human and bird flu viruses concurrently, which would allow the viruses to mutate and form into new, contagious strains. The government was keen to reassure the public that avian flu only posed a risk to those who came into regular contact with infected birds and that the immunisation programme was a precautionary measure based only on ‚Äútheoretical concerns‚Ä?. David Salisbury, the Department of Health‚Äôs director of immunisation said, ‚ÄúThere are concerns that those who work in close contact with poultry and who could also contract human seasonal influenza could act as a mixing vessel for new forms of bird flu if they became infected with an existing strain. You end up with something that has genetic material from two different viruses and then you have no immunity at all because you have got a completely new virus.‚Ä?

Although the risk of pandemic bird flu arriving in Britain is low, a cold winter in Eastern Europe could cause waters to freeze and force migratory birds into the UK in search of warmer lakes and seas.

The government has bought additional doses of the seasonal flu jab to cover the new immunisation programme and has pledged £500,000 for NHS trusts to administer the jabs.

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