Isolated outbreak of bird flu confirmed in Essex

Turkeys are a common sight in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and they're not just for christmas

An outbreak of Avian influenza has been detected at an animal sanctuary at Kirby Cross - Credit: Melanie Brighton

An isolated outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed at an animal sanctuary in Essex.

Currently, the outbreak, at Kirby Cross, is exclusively in birds, with no human infections yet reported.

People in contact with the animal sanctuary have been offered suitable preventative treatment. 

The response is being led by Essex County Council, Tendring District Council, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. 

Avian influenza is a disease which mainly affects birds, but in rare cases can also infect mammals, including humans. However, Essex County Council has reassured the public that the risk posed to their health is very small. 

Chickens are vulnerable to bird flu, which is in Essex

People have been asked to not move poultry in or out of a 3km wide area around Kirby Cross - Credit: Timothy Bradford

A precautionary letter has been sent to homes and businesses within three kilometres, approximately 19,000 properties, detailing actions to be undertaken, and who to report suspected cases to. 

Residents will need to report any poultry they have on the property to Essex County Council, and avoid moving any poultry in or out of the affected 3km zone. 

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In addition, anyone who keeps pet birds is being advised to keep contact between them and wild birds to a minimum, to avoid any wild bird droppings getting into the home, and to wash hands after any contact with them. 

Cat and dog owners in the immediate 3km area have been advised to keep cats indoors, and dogs on leads. 

A duck and a chicken, in Suffolk

Pet owners have been advised to wash their hands after contact with their birds. - Credit: Tim Bradford

In addition, if a member of the public comes across a dead bird, they should report it to Defra, on 03459335577 by selecting option seven. 

The Food Standards Agency has said that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, Avian Influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

John Spence, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for health, said: “It is important to reassure people that the risk of anyone becoming infected as a result of an outbreak like this is extremely low.

“Nevertheless, it is important that we put the correct precautions in place and working with Defra and Tendring District Council this is what we have done.

Tim's chickens on a patio in suffolk attached to an article about birdflu in essex

Officers from the Plant and Animal Health Agency will be writing to 19,000 homes about the outbreak - Credit: Timothy Bradford

“Officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency will be visiting commercial premises within the 3km zone around the site of the outbreak, and we will be writing to some 19,000 homes, offering information and advice, over the coming days.”

Lynda McWilliams, Tendring District Council Cabinet Member for Partnerships, said the authority was standing by to assist as required, adding: “As the local council we are ready to help our colleagues at Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Essex County Council in any way we can, and particularly with activity to make local people aware of this outbreak.

“The important thing is for people to react sensibly, understand there is minimal risk to human health, and if you keep birds then to follow the measures set out by the authorities.”

Public Health England’s Dr David Edwards said: “Avian Influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. We are working closely with Defra to monitor the situation and have provided the necessary health advice to anyone on site as a precaution.

“We know the importance of washing hands when it comes to Covid and the same applies here – try not to touch any sick or dead birds and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap after contact with any animal.”

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