The UK's chief vet has added to the country's pandemic woes by announcing that bird flu is at a “phenomenal level”.
And Christine Middlemiss told the BBC that an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across the UK on November 3 before being extended on November 29, encompassing tens of thousands of birds being culled at 40 farms.
And it is the largest ever cull, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
It is believed that the source of the outbreak comes from birds migrating from the north of Russia and eastern Europe.
Dr Middlemiss said: “We can't wait until another year and have an even bigger outbreak.
“So, we will be working not just with our own scientists but internationally, to understand more of what we can do about what's behind it.
“We are going to need to keep up these levels of heightened biosecurity for all that time.
“I know that sounds a huge number, and of course for those keepers affected it's really devastating.
“But in terms of food supply impact it's actually relatively a very small number in terms of egg supply, meat, chicken and so on.”
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The doctor also confirmed that there is an “ongoing background risk” of bird flu, and that the last few years has been reasonably quiet – which could explain the larger outbreak this year.
She added: “We've got this massive increase with the migratory wild birds, and absolutely it's something we need to understand better about why we are getting these ongoing infections every year.”
Just last week, around 10,000 Christmas turkeys were culled at a farm in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, after the H5N8 strain of bird flu was discovered.
And this week, hundreds of chickens were culled in Suffolk after the highly contagious H5N1 strain of aviation flue was found.
A 10km surveillance zone remains in the area, the East Anglia Daily Times reports.
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