UK clears second farm of bird flu, risk still high

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LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) Fears that a deadly bird flu virus had spread to a second farm in eastern England were allayed today but the risk of new cases remains high, acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg said today.

The death of 30 turkeys at Grove Farm, just a few miles from Redgrave Park Farm where an outbreak has been confirmed, led Britain's farm ministry on Thursday to issue a slaughter-on-suspicion order for the site.

''The preliminary test results show no evidence of avian influenza on the premises,'' Landeg told a news conference.

The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was confirmed at the Redgrave Park Farm earlier this week. The virulent strain has killed more than 200 people worldwide since 2003 and millions of birds either have died from it or been killed to prevent its spread.

''We are still at a very early stage of the spread. The next few days is a very high risk period then the risk of finding new cases gradually diminishes,'' Landeg said.

Grove and Redgrave Park farms share the same workers.

Britain's farm ministry is also culling free range turkeys at three others farms operated by Redgrave Poultry which also share the same workforce as a precautionary measure.

In total around 28,000 birds will be culled, mostly turkeys with some geese and ducks.

''We still do not know the origin of the outbreak,'' Landeg said, adding that the investigation included taking samples and testing droppings of wild birds in the area. There have not yet been any positive tests.

Britain's farm ministry has imposed a 3-km (2mile) protection zone, 10km (4mile) surveillance zone and a wider restricted zone. In these areas, poultry must be isolated from wild birds and there are movement restrictions.

Britain had an outbreak of the H5N1 virus strain in February at a turkey farm in Suffolk, eastern England.

Reuters PY DB2254

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