spraying gas cylinders©Rob Haworth/Rex Shutterstock

Defra has confirmed that avian influenza found on a Lancashire egg farm last week is a highly pathogenic H7N7 strain of the disease.

As such, it has converted the Temporary Control Zone that was in place since Friday (10 July) around the Staveley’s Eggs unit to the north-east of Preston, to a 10km Surveillance Zone, with an inner 3km Protection Zone.

In practical terms, this makes little difference, as movements of live birds, carcasses, eggs, other animals and manure within the zone were already restricted.

See also: Culling gets under way on Lancs bird flu farm

But Defra has also moved quickly to start issuing some licences over the weekend, to allow the lowest risk movements to take place from the control areas.

General licences were made available on Saturday (11 July) for the movement of table eggs to designated packing centres, subject to producers inspecting and confirming the health status of their flock and notifying the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

A general licence was also provided for the movement of mammals to or from premises in the zone where poultry are kept. Again, this is subject to confirming the health status of the flock and other strict biosecurity measures.

A number of specific licences – which have to be applied for from APHA – were also set up, including one for the movement of poultry from outside the zone to a designated slaughterhouse within the zone.

It is understood that independent poultry processor Gafoor Pure Halal has its main factory just inside the outer zone.

“It’s very much business as normal,” senior executive David Broxton told Poultry World. “We have been going through the process of getting licences in place. We are pulling in birds from outwith the zone, so supply is not interrupted.”

map of Lancs avian flu outbreak

Another specific licence is available for the movement of day old chicks from a hatchery in the control zone. The Tom Barron hatchery at Catforth to the north-west of Preston is one such affected premises.

Chief vet, Nigel Gibbens said in a statement following the confirmation of H7N7 highly pathogenic avian influenza that the humane culling of the birds involved was continuing.

“These actions are part of our tried and tested approach to dealing with previous outbreaks,” he said.

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspect disease to their nearest APHA office immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

H7N7 was last found in the UK in a flock of broiler breeders in Hampshire last February. On that occasion the strain was found to be low pathogenic.