Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 1 News List

UK gasses thousands of turkeys to fight bird flu

AGENCIES , HOLTON, ENGLAND, AND TOKYO

Workers arrive to load turkeys into crates before gassing them at Bernard Mathews' Farm in Holton, Suffolk, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Britain gassed tens of thousands of turkeys and extended restrictions on the movement of poultry to try to prevent the spread of deadly bird flu from a farm in eastern England.

UN officials said they were not surprised by the outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza and said they have been expecting the virus to spread during the colder winter months, much as it did last year.

Britain's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a statement on Sunday saying it appeared the virus had been confined to the Bernard Matthews farm near the town of Lowestoft.

More than 150,000 turkeys were slaughtered at the farm starting on Saturday.

David Nabarro, the UN's bird flu envoy, said Europe should be ready for more outbreaks.

"It's a cause for concern, but at the same time because the response is right I think the concern should be quite limited," Nabarro said in an interview in Jakarta.

Nabarro said the fowl were likely to have been infected by wild birds, which can carry the virus without becoming sick.

"It's incredibly difficult to completely insulate a bird farm from wild birds in the vicinity," he said.

Britain said the virus was the same pathogenic Asian strain found last month in Hungary, where an outbreak among geese on a farm prompted the slaughter of thousands of birds.

Nabarro said the latest death, that of a 22-year-old Nigerian woman who was the first known human fatality from the H5N1 virus in sub-Saharan Africa, was no surprise.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Agriculture Ministry said that British poultry imports to Japan have been halted temporarily.

Japan halted all imports of live poultry and poultry meat from Britain as of Saturday and requested further information from British authorities about the outbreak, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Japan imported 161,530 poultry birds from Britain last year, Finance Ministry data show.

also see story:

Scientists expect to see more bird flu in the coming months

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