Discovery of poultry exposed to bird flu virus was kept from public

UK - Government scientists found evidence of bird flu in poultry in October but did not report their concerns to the public, the Guardian can reveal.

The scientists placed movement restrictions on a bird rescue centre in south-west England after finding evidence that 13 free-range geese had been exposed to an H5 virus, one of two types of virus most likely to become deadly to birds and a group known to be a health risk to people.

The restrictions, which lasted at least a week until further tests ruled out any infection, came shortly after the highly dangerous H5N1 strain had been found in imported birds kept in quarantine.

No mention was made of the incident by the environment department, Defra, either then or during last month's scares caused by the dead swan at Cellardyke, Fife, which had H5N1, and by the outbreak of H7N3 on three farms in Norfolk.

The incident is referred to in one paragraph in the annual report on animal health by the government's chief veterinary officer, Debby Reynolds. The government insisted that it did not report the incident before because subsequent tests had not confirmed disease.

It was "not unexpected" for free-range birds to be exposed to low-pathogenic viruses from wild birds, and they were the only suspect cases found among 5,000 blood samples taken on 438 poultry sites between September and the end of January this year.

Source: The Guardian
calendar icon 18 May 2006
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