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Britain Satisfied With Tactics to Combat Bird Flu


Britain's quick response to its first mass outbreak of the deadly Asian variety of bird flu seems to be working. That is the assessment of the country's environment secretary, as Tom Rivers reports for VOA from London.

British authorities moved quickly to contain the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which was located on a farm about 210 kilometers northeast of London. The farm was isolated, and restricted zones were established around a broad perimeter, while 160,000 turkeys were culled.

Following a Cabinet-level meeting Monday, Environment Secretary David Miliband briefed his colleagues in parliament on the latest developments.

"Once slaughtered, those carcasses are being transported under escort in sealed, leak-proof-lorries (trucks) to a plant in Staffordshire, where they are being rendered," he explained. "Rendered involves crushing and grinding of carcasses followed by heat treatment in a sealed vessel to reduce the moisture content and to kill microorganisms. The leftover product from the rendering of the birds is then incinerated to ensure total destruction."

Those immediately involved in the disposal process are being offered anti-viral drugs as a precaution. And health officials here say the risk to the general public is negligible.

As to the overall response, Miliband says it appears that the process is effective and producing results.

"Experience from previous outbreaks in Europe, and in the past in this country, has shown that, in all cases where disease has been found in domestic poultry, the rapid action taken to restrict movements, to house birds, and above all to cull all the birds on the infected premises, has eradicated the disease without further spread," he said. "I am satisfied that the response in this case has been rapid, well coordinated and appropriate."

Miliband says the source of the virus remains a mystery, but he promised a full report.

"The state veterinary service is carrying out rapid and urgent investigations, both on the infected premises themselves, and by testing poultry farms and collecting dead wild birds in the protection and surveillance zones," he said. "Outside the restricted zones, our program of wild bird surveillance continues, with 4,000 birds having been tested in the last five month(s) alone. I urge keepers of birds to be vigilant, and to exercise good bio-security. In particular, it is important that they act quickly and contact their local animal health office if they suspect disease."

The goal for Britain is to regain disease-free status as soon as possible.

As a precaution, Russia and Japan immediately banned British poultry imports.

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