AI outbreak reported in East Anglia

Investigations are being carried out into the suspected outbreak of Avian Influenza on two Bernard Matthews sites in East Anglia.

Early reports suggest the disease is not of the H5 or H7 strain and therefored non-notifiable, however, laboratory tests are ongoing to confirm this.

Jeremy Blackburn, from the British Poultry Council, said: "It was noticed after a slight drop in egg production on the sites and vets were called in. Fortunately it appears to be neither H5 or H7 and it's pretty much looking like a non-notifiable, low pathogen AI. We're expected confirmation of that early next week."

Defra said an animal health investigation started late on Tuesday, 24 February, and restrictions on the premises remained in place. No further precautionary restrictions are considered necessary in the area at present, it said.

A statement from Bernard Matthews said: "Bernard Matthews Farms can confirm that Defra have undertaken tests for Avian Influenza on two of its small breeder farms, following notification from the Company of an unusual drop in egg production levels.

"As a precautionary measure and out of a duty of care for our employees, we have sought guidance from the Health Protection Agency (HPA). They have advised that this type of avian influenza poses very low risk to human health and do not recommend providing Tamiflu treatment to our staff.

"Whilst the two small breeder farms remain under movement restrictions until Defra have completed its tests, Bernard Matthews Farms other operations continue to run as normal.

"Avian Influenza is a disease of birds that continues to pose a threat to poultry flocks both in the UK and around the world. Bernard Matthews has in place clear procedures to identify avian influenza and, under the direction of Defra, the ability to control and eradicate the disease, without posing any risk to public health."