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Millions of birds face cull amid bird flu

There are fears that millions of birds might have to be destroyed as a result of the latest bird flu outbreak.

The potentially deadly H5N1 version of the disease was discovered on Sunday at Redgrave Park Farm near Diss in Suffolk. All 6,500 birds on the premises, most of them turkeys, are being slaughtered. But a further five million birds are kept within the 10 kilometre surveillance zone currently in force around the affected farm.

Now that the particular strain has been identified, the focus has turned to identifying exactly how it came to be back on British shores 10 months on from the last outbreak. In February, it was found in turkeys on a Bernard Matthews poultry farm in Holton, also in Suffolk. Acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg said the disease in the latest case was closely related to one found in birds in the Czech Republic and Germany in the summer.

The discovery suggests the virus could have been spread to the UK by wild birds, but animal health experts were keeping an open mind and investigating all the possibilities, he said. A report by Defra into the outbreak in February also initially blamed wild birds. But it was later decided the most likely source of the infection was imported turkey meat from Hungary.

Dr Mark Avery, of the Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds, said: "There have been no recent reports of wild birds dying of bird flu in the countries on their migration routes. "Jumping to conclusions over the source of bird flu could blind us to courses of action that should be taken. We can't rule out wild birds as carriers but we're not even close to knowing that claim is true." (