ALL chickens, geese and ducks at a Herefordshire farm will be killed after bird flu was found at the site.

Farm workers who have been in contact with the birds have also been given a course of medication as there is a small risk that people can catch the disease.

But health officials have said the risk to the public is low.

Two new control zones were thrown around Ross-on-Wye last week after the flu was found at a farm on the outskirts of the town.

It means new rules for bird keepers within a three and 10-kilometre radius of the site, near the A40.


Herefordshire Council has now confirmed that the flu – the H5N1 strain – was found in a small flock of chickens, ducks and geese.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) confirmed the bird flu on Thursday.

Since then, Herefordshire Council has been talking with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and there appears to be no wider risk, a spokesperson said.

But a spokesperson added that bird keepers must follow government requirements.

"The council acted quickly as soon as receiving information from Defra. The result is a loss of livestock to the farmer, whose premises will undergo a total disinfection under Defra and APHA supervision," the spokesperson said.

"Herefordshire Council is currently in the process of writing to or visiting every household within a three-kilometre protection zone of the affected premises, to ensure that poultry keepers are taking the necessary precautions in line with Defra guidance."

It is the third site in Herefordshire where bird flu has been confirmed this winter, with the other farms in Shobdon, near Leominster, and Clifford, near Hay-on-Wye.

Dr James Chipwete, consultant in communicable disease control with the UKHSA in the West Midlands, said: “The A(H5N1) strain is highly pathogenic to poultry and other birds, which is why it important that poultry owners stick to the Defra guidance.

"While the risk to human health is considered very low, it is possible for humans to catch the virus through close contact with an infected bird, dead or alive.

"Therefore, it is very important that people do not touch birds infected with avian flu, their carcasses, droppings, bedding or eggs – and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.

“As a precaution, the farm workers who have been in contact with the infected birds have been given a course of antiviral medication and are undergoing close monitoring for 10 days from last contact with infected birds.”


Marc Willimont, head of public protection at Herefordshire Council, said: “While any outbreak of avian flu is a concern, we do not expect this relatively minor incident to adversely affect others.

“I can reassure the public that we acted as soon as we were made aware of the incident by Defra and that we have followed all the government department’s guidelines to help minimise the risk of any potential spread of the virus in the surrounding area.

“Residents in Ross-on-Wye can expect to receive a letter with further details from the council within the next week.

"Other rural premises within the three-kilometre zone are likely to receive a visit to ensure all poultry keepers have put precautions in place and are complying with the government’s protection zone.”

Bird flu has been found at 69 English sites this winter, with the chief veterinary officers of England, Scotland and Wales declaring an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain, to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

The Government has also introduced mandatory housing measures for all poultry and other captive birds to limit the spread of avian influenza in the UK.

Anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds should also take extra precautions including keeping their birds indoors or taking appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds the RSPCA has provided a simple guide to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu.

"It is important to be vigilant for any signs of disease, if you are concerned about your birds’ health or suspect avian influenza, please contact your vet immediately," the council spokesperson said.

"Herefordshire Council and the UKHSA wants to remind residents not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds. If you find dead swans, geese, ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77."

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