UK bird 'flu outbreak: wild birds exonerated
The publication by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the final epidemiology report into the H5N1 Avian Influenza outbreak in Suffolk confirmed that the probable cause of infection was through imported meat products from Hungary.
“There was no evidence to support the hypothesis that wild birds were the source of the outbreak. This was based on the fact that there had been no isolations of H5N1 from wild birds in Europe during the 2006/7 wild bird migration period and subsequent residency." the report states.
The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have expressed disappointment that the Bernard Matthews Company have used this report to call for further monitoring of wild birds, which have been exonerated as a vector in this outbreak.
"Calling for more work without acknowledging their readiness to contribute to the costs of a scheme designed to protect their industry reveals a worrying state of denial within the industry," said Dr. Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation.
In making such a call, they argue that the company opens the question of who should pay for the current surveillance measures. The RSPB, along with other conservation charities, have been undertaking wild bird surveillance since the autumn of 2005, at a cost to the RSPB alone of £170,000 ($340,000).
"The company stands to receive almost £600,000 ($1.2 million) in compensation while conservation charities shoulder the burden of surveillance with no cost to the poultry industry or DEFRA," —Dr. Mark Avery, Director of Conservation, RSPB.
Last month a comprehensive critical review of recent scientific literature on the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N, published in the British Ornithologists Union journal Ibis, concluded that poultry trade, rather than bird migration, is the main mechanism of global dispersal of the virus.