Defra publishes lessons learnt from BM bird flu outbreak report

Defra has published a lessons learned report following the outbreak of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in Suffolk in February this year.

The report concluded that the response to the outbreak was effective and highlights the benefits of the contingency planning work over the last six years. Defra said that disease was contained to one premises and controlled both quickly and successfully. It added that this view was reflected by stakeholders and operational partners demonstrating their increased confidence in the Government's contingency planning and ability to respond to a disease outbreak.

The report also makes 34 detailed operational recommendations on the management of an outbreak of avian influenza, or other exotic animal disease. These recommendations have all been accepted and have already been adopted in our response to the current Foot and Mouth Disease and Bluetongue outbreaks.

Commenting on the report, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Fred Landeg, said: "I welcome the publication of this report and congratulate all those involved for their hard work in containing the outbreak so quickly and effectively. Even when things have gone well, it is very important to learn the lessons and improve the way we prepare for the future. This is especially relevant as we are in the midst of dealing with two outbreaks of animal disease at the moment. This is a shared responsibility, and I urge the farming industry to work to develop their own contingency plans to prepare for possible future outbreaks too."

He continued: "Cases of avian influenza, H5N1, over the last few months in the Czech Republic, Germany and France demonstrate the threat to UK is continuing and real. We will be at increased risk during the autumn migration period. Therefore, it is as important as ever that we are properly prepared, and I would urge all bird keepers to retain high levels of vigilance and biosecurity."

Key themes & recommendations include:

* Working ever more closely with delivery partners and the livestock industry to plan and deliver disease control activities.

* Animal Health working with industry to ensure that plans are in place at every large commercial poultry premises.

* Animal by-product arrangements to be reviewed and strengthened for premises similar to the Holton site.

* Communications need to be fast and effective, focused on key audiences (e.g. through timely use of the GB Poultry Register).