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New Bird Flu Outbreak Strikes Britain

Authorities in Britain have ordered the culling of thousand of turkeys and other birds at a farm northeast of London where a deadly strain of avian flu has been detected. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from the British capital.

Having successfully dealt with a previous outbreak in February, Britain is again coping with bird flu and as British government lab results now show, it is the deadly form of the virus, H5 N1.

That was confirmed Tuesday by the country's deputy chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg.

"It is of the Asian lineage and it is closely related to strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza found this summer in the Czech republic and in Germany," he said.

A three-kilometer protection zone rings the poultry farm in eastern England where this outbreak has occurred and beyond that, a ten-kilometer surveillance zone encircles the area in northern Suffolk country.

On that farm itself, Landeg says culling is underway.

"There are 5,000 turkeys, approximately on the site, over 1,000 ducks and nearly 500 geese," he added. "These birds are free-range, but of course they are brought in at night and when the premises was brought under restriction, the birds were housed."

Given the similarity to the strains found this summer in the Czech republic and in Germany, one theory is that a wild bird might have brought it in, but right now, nothing is being ruled in or out.

"At this stage, we are keeping an open mind as to the origin of and as I have said, all potential sources of the origin will be investigated and that includes movements of people, vehicles and things onto the premises and the investigation clearly will cover whether there is any existing disease elsewhere in the immediate area," he explained.

Roughly nine months ago, an outbreak of the virus on another poultry farm from the same general region led to the slaughter of 160,000 turkeys.

Since it first emerged in Asian poultry stocks, it is believed that just over 200 people have died of the disease worldwide although it remains difficult for humans to catch.