The British countryside will not be shut down in the event of an outbreak of avian flu in the same way it was with foot-and-mouth in 2001, a new report from DEFRA has confirmed.

“Avian flu is a very different virus from F&M,” it says.

“It’s less contagious, its survival time is shorter and it does not travel long distances through the air.”

There would therefore be little need to close footpaths or stop people visiting the countryside for their recreation.

The economic impact of avian flu would mainly be felt by the poultry sector and ancillary industries, rather than the tourist trade.

“The export market (worth 275m) would be severely restricted and domestic poultry and egg consumption would be likely to experience a temporary downturn.”

A prolonged outbreak could have a negative effect on employment, with 28,000 people employed in the sector, and would also hit feed suppliers and egg and poultry processors, the DEFRA report suggested.