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Britain criticised for "slow" bird flu reaction

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Britain criticised for "slow" bird flu reaction


British government vets have begun work to contain an outbreak of bird flu on a commercial farm in the county of Suffolk – culling nearly 160,000 turkeys. Health authorities have set up a 2,000 square kilometre restricted zone around the town of Holton, to control the movement of poultry and prevent the virus spreading.

But Euro MP Neil Parish said he is still concerned: “The poultry started showing signs and dying on Tuesday and it was Thursday before the government vets took action. We really need to be fast off on these outbreaks,” he said.

The avian flu has been confirmed as the deadly Asian strain of H5N1 that has killed more than 150 people in the past three years.

But one local farmer, Kevin Bolls, says he has heard nothing from officials about what precautions to take and he is well within the restricted zone around the affected farm, run by the Bernard Matthews company:

“About half a mile as the crow flies from Bernard Mathews site,” he said.

“I just round up the chickens and put them in the shed and that is all we can do. What else can you do?”

Police and health officials have begun checks to prevent movement of poultry out of the restricted zone.

The government is playing down the threat, saying the virus does not pass easily to humans.

A spokesman from the Bernard Matthews company says none of the infected birds have entered the food chain and there is no risk to public health.

The British veterinary office says an investigation into the origin of the outbreak has begun but the most probable source is wild birds.

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