DEFRA using lessons learned in Suffolk H5N1 avian flu outbreak in its response to foot and mouth and Bluetongue

DEFRA claims it has implemented all the 34 lessons learned from the H5N1 avian flu outbreak on a Bernard Matthews site earlier this year and is using them in its response against the current outbreaks of foot and mouth and Bluetongue.

The Avian Flu Lessons Learned report published yesterday concludes that the response to the outbreak was effective and highlights the benefits of the contingency planning work over the last six years.

Disease was contained to one unit and controlled both quickly and successfully. This view was reflected by stakeholders and operational partners demonstrating their increased confidence in the Government’s contingency planning and ability to respond to a disease outbreak.

Key recommendations include:

  • working more closely with delivery partners and the livestock industry to plan and deliver disease control activities
  • Animal Health to work with industry to ensure that plans are in place at every large commercial poultry premises
  • animal by-product arrangements to be reviewed and strengthened for premises similar to the Holton site
  • communications need to be fast and effective, focused on key audiences through timely use of the GB Poultry Register.

Commenting on the report, the deputy chief veterinary officer, Fred Landeg, said: “Even when things have gone well, it is very important to learn the lessons and improve the way we prepare for the future.

“This is a shared responsibility and I urge the farming industry to work to develop their own contingency plans to prepare for possible future [avian flu] outbreaks.”

He highlighted that cases of H5N1 avian flu over the last few months in the Czech Republic, Germany and France demonstrate the threat to UK is continuing and real.

“We will be at increased risk during the autumn migration period.  Therefore, it is as important as ever that we are properly prepared, and I would urge all bird keepers to retain high levels of vigilance and biosecurity.”