Bird flu UK: highly infectious strain of disease confirmed in commercial poultry farm in north Norfolk

Defra confirmed a “protection and surveillance zone” has been placed around the premises

Bird flu has been identified and confirmed in a commercial poultry farm near Fakenham, north Norfolk, on Tuesday (3 January).

The highly infectious H5N1 strain of the disease was found at the premises. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said “a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone have been put in place around the premises” and all of the poultry on the premises “will be humanely culled.”

It comes a day after fears of a suspected outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry at a premises near North Thoresby, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, which was later ruled out.

Concerns had been raised on 29 December but Defra said tests had been carried out on official samples and a temporary control zone which had been imposed was now revoked.

The UK has been facing an outbreak of bird flu, with more than 200 cases confirmed on commercial premises, smallholdings and in pet birds since October 2021.

There have been 156 confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the UK since 1 October - including 138 cases in England, 14 cases in Scotland, three cases in Wales and one case in Northern Ireland. Overall, there have been 272 confirmed cases in England since the H5N1 outbreak started in October 2021.

It is not possible to vaccinate poultry or most captive birds against bird flu in England - there is an eligibility criteria and authorisation must be gained for zoo birds to be vaccinated. Only zoos or collections holding a current zoo licence can apply for vaccination, Defra said.

In November measures were brought in to keep all poultry and captive birds indoors in England to prevent the spread of bird flu.

The national housing measures are aimed at preventing house birds from interacting with wild birds.

There are various strains of the bird flu virus, according to the NHS, most of which do not affect humans, but four of the strains have caused concern. These strains include H5N1, H7N9, H5N6, and H5N8.

The strains H5N1, H7N9 and H5N9 do not infect people easily and are not usually spread from person to person, although several people have been infected around the world which have led to a number of deaths.