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UK Slaughtering 160,000 Turkeys To Contain H5N1 Bird Flu Outbreak

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Government officials, veterinarians and farm workers have been working all night slaughtering turkeys to contain the bird flu outbreak that was confirmed as H5N1 on a Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Suffolk last week. Nearly 160,000 turkeys are being gassed in portable chambers.

Although the turkeys started dying on Tuesday last week, the authorities were not informed until Thursday because at first E Coli was suspected. It was reported yesterday that in all, more than 2,600 birds died of the deadly virus.Gassing was chosen as the mass slaughtering method because it is the most humane and ensures the high level of bio-security that is required to stop the deadly virus spreading. Personnel are equipped with protective suits and masks, and they are placing the carcasses into the lorries that are sealed with metal covers. The lorry containers and wheels are also disinfected on leaving the farm.The carcasses are being transported to rendering plants in Staffordshire, some 160 miles to the northwest of the Suffolk farm, where they will be crushed and ground into a sludge, then heated up in a sealed boiler to remove water content and reduce the weight of the mass by some 60 per cent. It is the same process that produces tallow (for making soap and candles) and bone meal (for fertilizers) from slaughterhouse carcasses and other animal remains.In this case the emissions (mostly steam from the boiling process) will also be condensed, filtered and incinerated to make sure no pathogens escape that way.Meanwhile a two-pronged campaign is under way to allay public fears and to inform farmers and other bird keepers about safety procedures and restrictions.The European Centre for Disease Control (EDC) continue to assert that the risk to human health is extremely low, although it is not zero. The only way for people to get the H5N1 flu would be if they came into direct contact with infected birds, and even then the risk is very small. However, this is no reason to ignore safety measures.Avian flu experts say that the virus will only be a pandemic threat if it mutates to a form that makes it easy to pass from human to human. According to some experts, the more cases of bird to human infections there are, the greater the likelihood that the virus will mutate. Other experts however say that the longer we manage to go without a pandemic breaking out, the slimmer the chance that it will actually mutate.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the meantime are urging farmers to keep a close eye on their flocks and to keep to strict bio-security measures.Where avian flu is suspected, then farmers must ensure that all people who come into contact with birds on their farm know the procedures. These include for example:- Limiting exposure to all birds that could be infected.- Wearing the right protective clothing (suits and masks for example).- Keeping an eye on everyone who has been exposed for signs of becoming ill.- Giving advice on personal hygiene to protect health and stop the infection spreading.- Disposing of contaminated clothing and equipment safely.- Taking, under medical advice, the appropriate antiviral drugs, if safe to do so.- Having a flu jab, again under medical advice and if safe to do so.A nationwide ban has also been placed, since Saturday, on the movement and gathering of all birds in England, Scotland and Wales such as at fairs, markets, pigeon races, shows, and exhibitions. This is over and above the the requirement to house or isolate birds in regions nearer to the outbreak.Bernard Matthews, who owns the turkey farm on which the outbreak has occurred, started his turkey farming business in 1952 with 30 eggs and a second hand incubator. It is estimated that 8 million turkeys are eaten at Christmas in the UK, 2.7 million of which are produced by Bernard Matthews.Although the business has a branch in Hungary, where an outbreak was announced earlier this year, the two events are not connected, said a spokesman for the business.(Source: World Health Organisation : February 2007.)

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Posted On: 13 February, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

Created by: myVMC