British, Dutch fight bird flu outbreak, kill chickens, ducks to stop the virus from spreading

LONDON – Chickens were being slaughtered in the Netherlands and Britain was preparing to kill ducks after two cases of bird flu were discovered in Europe — but officials insisted Monday that the risk to public health was very low.

British officials said they were investigating a case of the H5 bird flu virus in northern England, but noted it’s not the more dangerous H5N1 strain. They said all 6,000 ducks at a breeding farm in the Driffield area of East Yorkshire will be killed and a restriction zone was being set up to prevent further spread of the infection. Tests were also being carried out at nearby farms.

The UK government food agency said there is no risk to the food chain and British Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens told BBC the risk of the disease spreading is probably quite low.

It was the first bird flu outbreak in Britain in six years, officials said. A government spokeswoman said Britain has a “strong track record of controlling and eliminating previous outbreaks of avian flu in the UK.”

The Dutch government, meanwhile, banned the transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands after finding the H5N8 strain of bird flu at a chicken farm. All 150,000 chickens at the farm in Hekendorp, 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Amsterdam, were being slaughtered and 16 other nearby farms were being checked. It was not clear how the farm became infected.

“There is a small risk that it can be transmitted from animal to humans but there has to be intensive contact. Those at risk are really only the farmer, his family and the workers slaughtering the animals. They are being monitored by health authorities,” said Harald Wychgel, a spokesman for the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.