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February 5, 2007    

UK bird flu outbreak leads to Russian ban on imports

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by Elaine Frei

In the wake of confirmation that the outbreak of bird flu in a turkey flock in Suffolk is the H5N1 strain that has killed not only birds but humans in other parts of the world, poultry industry officials acknowledged that the result is “not good news” and Russia has announced that it will ban the importation from the UK of live birds, hatching eggs, and all poultry products including meat, as well as feed and equipment for keeping and killing birds beginning Tuesday. A security zone has been set up around the farm where birds have died from the flu and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has begun the process of killing all 159,000 turkeys in the flock.

Despite the fact that this outbreak is more serious than one in April 2006 when the same strain of bird flu was found in a swan in Cellardyke, Fife, industry officials hope that public fears will be quelled. They are trying to emphasize that the risk to humans from the outbreak is small, but they are well aware that chicken sales declined by 60 percent in France and Italy last year after similar scares. After revelation of bird flu in the swan in April, UK chicken sales dropped by a few percent for a couple of months before returning to normal, according to a spokesman for the National Farmers Union who nevertheless acknowledged that this case is more serious.

In addition to the ban in imports from the UK by Russia, Dutch and French officials have outlined measures to prevent the spread of the flu. Dutch farmers, for example, have been told to keep their commercial poultry indoors. The current outbreak in Suffolk is the most widespread on a commercial poultry farm in Europe.

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