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More Bird Flu in Norfolk

1st May 2006

01052006_birdflu1.jpgTwo poultry farms, close to a farm in Norfolk infected with bird flu, have found the disease in their livestock, further tests will be carried out at the two farms. A Defra spokesman said that the two free range flocks will be slaughtered on suspicion of an avian notifiable disease. The infected areas are close to Witford Lodge Farm, where 35,000 chickens were slaughtered after the H7 avian flu strain was found.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that preliminary results indicated the farms were affected by the H7N3 strain of avian flu. The strain found at Witford Lodge Farm, which is in North Tuddenham about 13 miles (20km) west of Norwich, was also the H7 type.

Officials said risk to the public remained "extremely low" despite the fact that a poultry worker at Witford Lodge had contracted the virus in the form of conjunctivitis. The strain is virulent among chickens but less of a threat to humans than the H5N1 variant. A Heath Protection Agency spokeswoman said that no other poultry workers at the farm had shown symptoms of illness caused by H7 avian flu.

A restricted zone has been created, extending 1km from each of the infected premises. Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said the working hypothesis remained that the most likely source of the virus was from another premises or from wild birds. A spokeswoman from Defra said the two new farms which tested positive for avian flu did have the same owner.

An outbreak of an H7 variation, H7N7, in the Netherlands in 2003 led the Dutch government to order the slaughter of more than 30 million birds. This outbreak in the Netherlands infected more than 80 people and led to the death of one vet.

The H5N1 virus has killed more than 100 people in Asia. Neither strain poses a large-scale threat to humans as bird flu cannot pass easily from one person to another, though some experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate and trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

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