Restrictions surrounding the farm at the centre of the bird flu outbreak in East Yorkshire will remain in place for at least another three and a half weeks, the Environment Department has confirmed.
Two exclusion zones have been set up around the as yet unnamed ducking breeding farm in Nafferton near Driffield where a case of bird flu was confirmed last Sunday by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
A week on and Defra said the 3km protection zone around the farm will remain in place for a minimum of 21 days, as per their protocols for dealing with an outbreak of this kind, while the 10km surveillance zone will not be reviewed before a further nine days have elapsed.
The restriction zone bans movements of all poultry, products and waste within the area. Poultry must be housed or isolated in the zone, bird gatherings such as fairs, shows and exhibitions are banned, and game birds cannot be released.
The National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) regional branch, based in York, has been guiding its affected farmer members through the restrictions this week and it reported that members were growing concerned about stockpiles of eggs and poultry litter on farms. But a Defra spokesman said licences could soon be issued to alleviate the mounting pressure.
“We are considering providing licences to allow limited movement of eggs and day old birds within the restricted zones,” the spokesman said.
“APHA (the Animal and Plant and Health Agency) will carry out a veterinary risk assessment and consider each case individually. These moves are very low risk because the eggs or birds will stay within the restricted zones and be subject to strict monitoring by vets.”
Meanwhile, the NFU is urging poultry producers to remain vigilant.
The union’s poultry chairman Duncan Priestner said: ”We would urge all poultry producers to remain vigilant and continue with their ongoing on-farm hygiene and biosecurity measures. Anyone who suspects that their birds might be ill should inform their local vet as soon as possible.
“It must be stressed that consumers should be aware that this is a bird health issue and that they can be reassured that eating British poultry products is safe. As it stands this is an isolated instance and while the poultry industry remains on high alert, it is business as usual.”
The strain of the disease has been confirmed by Defra scientists as the H5N8 strain, which is not infectious for humans. Public Health England said the risk to public health is “extremely low”.
John Vernam, managing director of UK operations at Cherry Valley, which owns the affected farm, said: “We are working closely with Defra and other agencies and are confident that the controls in place are proportionate to the risks involved.
“We will be continuing our vigilance over the coming days and, like all poultry producers in the area, will be working with the authorities in the ongoing surveillance programme.”