Avian flu has been found in a flock of chickens in Oxfordshire, the chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens has confirmed.

Laboratory tests have so far shown that the birds have the H7 strain and all birds on the premises will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure.

Further testing will be carried out to establish whether the strain is high or low pathogenicity.

A detailed epidemiological investigation to better understand the origin and development of the disease is underway, DEFRA said.

A temporary control zone with a 3km inner zone and a 10km outer zone has been established around the infected premises. 

DEFRA has stated that a number of conditions now apply.

 – All birds must be housed or otherwise isolated from contact with wild birds in the inner zone.

– Bird gatherings are banned and all other movements of birds and some products are banned in the whole of the temporary control zone.

Nigel Gibbens said:

“I would stress the need for poultry keepers to be extremely vigilant, practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to their local Animal Health Office immediately.”

The Health Protection Agency has advised that it is important to remember that H7 avian flu remains largely a disease of birds. The virus does not transmit easily to humans.

Dr Judith Hilton, Food Standards Agency head of microbiological safety, said:

“This case of bird flu on a premises in Banbury, Oxfordshire poses no safety implications for the human food chain.

“Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat. The science shows that the virus isn’t contracted by eating food – but usually by close contact with infected birds.”

All poultry keepers on the GB Poultry Register are being notified, and the EU Commission has been informed.