Bird flu confirmed at Goosnargh farm

13 July 2015
Bird flu confirmed at Goosnargh farm

A mass cull of poultry was taking place at a Goosnargh farm this week, after a bird flu outbreak was confirmed there.

A 10km temporary control zone was set up around Goosnargh, Lancashire, late on Friday 10 July banning the movement of all animals from the farm and other poultry farms in the zone.

The move came after the presence of the H7N7 bird flu strain, which can also infect people, was confirmed on Monday 13 July, on Field Foot Farm on Eaves Green Lane. The farm is owned by Chorley-based business Staveley's Eggs. Staveley's Eggs is a major producer and packager of free range and colony cage eggs.

Public Health England stressed that the risk to public health was very low.

Goosnargh poultry is celebrated and sourced by many chefs in Britain.

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: "Final tests results have confirmed a case of avian flu at a farm in Lancashire. Restrictions put in place last week will continue and the humane culling of all birds at the site is progressing.

"These actions are part of our tried and tested approach to dealing with previous outbreaks.

"Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health from this strain is very low. The Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.

"Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspect disease to their nearest APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) office immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises."

Farmers across the county were placed on alert when DEFRA issued a temporary movement restriction notice late on Friday afternoon.

The decision to take precautionary action has been taken based on the clinical symptoms displayed by birds at the farm and emerging laboratory findings. The investigation into the suspect case and laboratory tests are ongoing.

The last confirmed cases of avian influenza were a low severity case of H7N7 in February, found in chickens at a farm in Hampshire, and a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 in ducks on premises in East Yorkshire last November. All movement restrictions following these outbreaks have been lifted.

Reg Johnson, farmer at Lancashire Goosnargh farm Johnson & Swarbrick, commented on the story, telling The Caterer: "We're worried [in as much as] we're not too far away, but it depends on what strain the virus is, and what spreadability it is. Unlike foot and mouth, which can travel on the wind, this does tend to be harder to move. We'll be wondering as the next few days unfold, especially in tying down what kind of virus it is, and then we'll have a better picture about what to do."

He added that his farm was taking the usual precautions to avoid spreading disease, including monitoring vehicles coming in and out. He said: "If we found the virus [at our farm], we'd have to kill all the birds off, which would probably cause long-term damage as we'd have no birds to sell, and it might also create a stigma. But we're fairly confident it won't affect us…if it was a quick-moving strain it would have infected a bigger area right away, and it's not doing. Luckily we're getting the support of locals and customers and we're saying business as usual. But it's in the hands of the gods."

Johnson & Swarbrick produces Goosnargh duckling and cornfed chicken, and has been in business for the past 30 years. It processes around 2,500-3,000 ducks, and 3,000 chickens a week.

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