Farmers prepare for visits from government officials after bird flu outbreak in Diss

The market town of Diss. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

The market town of Diss. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

Farmers are preparing for visits from government officials after a 3km protection zone was set up around Diss following an outbreak of bird flu.

Chickens at a farm in East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chickens at a farm in East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The H5N8 strain of avian flu was confirmed to have hit a small flock of around 35 chickens and geese in the Norfolk market town, which borders Suffolk.

A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

As well as the protection zone, Defra has imposed a 10km surveillance zone around the infected premises to try and stop the disease spreading.

An investigation is under way to find the source of the infection.

Defra said it was unable to say which farm is the source of the latest outbreak.

Ed Hegarty, co-owner of Norfolk Geese in Colegate End Road, Diss, said his farm was expecting a visit from Defra in the next 48 hours as the site falls within the area identified by the department.

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He said: “There’s no real issue here as it has happened before and we’re all geared up to deal with it.

Asked what could be done to try and prevent further outbreaks, he said: “It is an act of God with wild birds.

“We do what we can but at the end of the day you can’t protect yourself from old birds coming along and landing on your farm.”

He said some of the larger firms noticed more of an impact in terms of business, as the protection zone can stop them from exporting.

However he hopes Norfolk Geese will be back to normal once the visit from Defra officials, who come to take blood samples of birds on the site to check there are no signs of the virus.

A Defra spokesman said: “Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Keepers are urged to continue to be vigilant and look out for the signs of avian flu in their flocks, informing the Animal and Plant Health Agency should they suspect infection.”

Earlier this year 23,000 birds were slaughtered after a bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in Redgrave.