Birds culled on four more farms

Birds on four more farms near the outbreak of avian influenza (AI) are to be culled after tests by Defra vets. Defra said the premises had been identified as dangerous contacts.

All poultry on these premises will be culled as a precautionary measure. These premises are within the existing restricted zone.

Defra said the action is in line with our contingency plans and takes into account the level of assessed risk at this early stage in the outbreak. In addition, some general licences to address immediate welfare issues in the area covered by the zones are being issued today.

Acting chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said: "At this stage we have not confirmed disease on any of these four premises. This is a precautionary measure taken to prevent any potential spread of the disease. "I must stress again that poultry keepers in the area must be extremely vigilant, practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to their local Animal Health office."

The strain of Avian Influenza present at the Infected Premises near Diss was confirmed yesterday as the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain.

This strain is similar to that found in Germany and the Czech Republic during the summer. Further characterisation of the virus is in progress. A full epidemiological investigation into the source of the outbreak is underway.

The national ban on bird gatherings remains firmly in place. Movement restrictions apply in the Protection, Surveillance and Restricted Zones. It has been decided today to allow some low-risk movements under general licence, including the movement of poultry to slaughter from outside the Surveillance Zone to inside and the movement of table eggs to designated packing centres for distribution. In addition, the movement of day old chicks out of the Surveillance Zone may be permitted under specific licence from Animal Health.