Flu ‘won’t affect Christmas birds’

Preparations begin for a cull of ducks at a farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire operated by Cherry Val

Preparations begin for a cull of ducks at a farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire operated by Cherry Valley after a bird flu outbreak. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 18, 2014. Government vets are investigating if the case of "highly pathogenic" H5 avian flu, found on the farm near Driffield is linked to a similar case in the Netherlands. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Flu. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Poultry industry officials have moved to reassure consumers that there is no indication “at this stage” that the bird flu outbreak will disrupt the supply of Christmas turkeys.

The culling of thousands of ducks at a Yorkshire farm operated by the UK’s largest producer of duck products is expected to begin today and a six-mile (10km) restriction zone has been put in place in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.

But experts have warned that further outbreaks could emerge in the coming days.

The uncertainty has led to concerns that the outbreak could spread to turkey farms and lead to a shortage for Christmas.

The British Poultry Council, which estimates that 10 million turkeys will be sold over the festive period, said the current outbreak would have no impact on Christmas dinner.

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Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said: “At this stage, there is no indication that there will be any disruption to the supply of turkeys for Christmas.

“The birds on the duck farm in Yorkshire are being slaughtered and the farm will then be thoroughly disinfected.

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“The current outbreak has a 10km restriction zone and this will have no impact on the supply of turkeys for the festive period.”

NFU poultry adviser Gary Ford said: “Farmers are working extremely hard at this time of year to prepare for the Christmas market and consumers can be reassured that buying British poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks) is safe.”

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens has said the Cherry Valley farm at the centre of the alert has good bio-security in place and the risk of spread is “probably quite low”.

But he has warned that more cases could follow and, because of the risk of wild birds spreading the disease, urged farmers and their vets all over the country to be alert to the possibility.

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