Defra has today published the final epidemiology report into
the outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in Suffolk confirmed in
The report sets out the findings of the National Emergency Epidemiology
Group who have been investigating the outbreak in close consultation
with the European Commission and the Hungarian Authorities.
The final report is a detailed analysis of all possible ways the
virus could have arrived in Holton, Suffolk. No specific proven source
has been found. The report concludes that the most plausible explanation
is that infection was most likely introduced to Britain via the importation
of turkey meat from Hungary. Such meat could have originated from
a sub-clinically infected turkey flock in Hungary which had been
infected from a wild bird source which had also infected the two
goose farms in Hungary.
The investigation in conjunction with the Hungarian authorities
has found no evidence of undisclosed infection in Hungary and the
possibility of infection going undetected in turkeys is considered
to be a rare event.
Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer, said:
“The epidemiology investigation is an important part of increasing
our understanding of avian influenza. Most potential routes of infection
are controlled through current procedures. However, the outbreak
in Suffolk appears to be the outcome of a series of normally low
probability events and circumstances which cumulatively led to the
introduction of disease.
This report illustrates the importance of effective biosecurity
for all food business operators, as there is a continuous low level
risk of introduction of avian influenza to the UK. There are always
lessons to be learnt after any outbreak and that process is underway.
We will be working with the industry leaders and delivery agents
on this and in particular examining all areas of biosecurity. A full
report will be produced and published.”
Defra has also confirmed today that payment will be made to Bernard
Matthews for the clinically healthy birds slaughtered for disease
control purposes at their premises in Suffolk, as required by the
Animal Health Act 1981 (see ‘notes to editors’).
Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Animal Health, said:
“I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to
provide such a comprehensive report. I would also like to thank the
Hungarian authorities for their co-operation and all of those who
did such a brilliant job of containing and eradicating the outbreak
“Although we cannot be sure how the outbreak happened, this
episode reflects the need for constant vigilance, high levels of
biosecurity and robust and well developed contingency planning in
dealing with animal disease outbreaks.”
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