Shoots, game dealers and gamebird breeders are asked to be extra vigilant after a case of bird flu is confirmed in East Yorkshire

The shooting community has been asked to be extra vigilant after an outbreak of bird flu at a duck farm near Driffield in East Yorkshire.

DEFRA officials issued a statement confirming the presence of bird flu at the farm and an order establishing restriction zones on Saturday 16 November. A private vet is reported to have notified officials of a suspected bird flu case on Friday 14 November after concerns were raised at a rise in duck deaths and a decrease in egg-laying. Officials declared a surveillance zone in which movement restrictions apply with a 10km radius around the affected premises and a 3km radius protection zone, which is subject to further biosecurity and reporting restrictions. The farm’s 6,000 birds were culled as a precaution to stop the disease spreading. For details of the zones and conditions to be observed within them visit http://po.st/FluOrder.

Following tests, Public Health England confirmed that the strain of bird flu involved was H5N8, which is highly contagious to birds but not thought to pose a serious risk to people or to the food chain. Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said that the risk of bird flu spreading was “probably quite low” thanks to good biosecurity measures at the affected farm, but warned that further cases could occur as a result of wild birds spreading the virus through their droppings.

The Countryside Alliance, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, BASC and others have been working closely with Government officials and will contact members with updates and if any shooting related changes are made the restriction zones.

The organisations have issued advice reminding shoots, game breeders or dealers operating within the restricted areas that they must read the DEFRA order (http://po.st/FluOrder) and make sure that they comply with the measures to prevent the spread of bird flu. BASC, the Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation reminded members that though restrictions on the release of wild gamebirds are unlikely to be relevant at this time of year, other biosecurity measures concerning movements of dead and live birds must be observed.

Those involved with live quarry shooting outside the affected zones have been advised to be on the look out for anything unusual and to report any bird flu suspicions to their local Animal Health Office. In particular, DEFRA has asked anyone finding five or more dead wild birds in the same place at the same time to report the incident via its helpline, tel 03459 335577. To find your local Animal Health Office, visit http://po.st/AnimalHealthOffices.

The particular strain of bird flu identified is the same as that involved in recent cases in the Netherlands and Germany. EU officials have said that the outbreaks may be linked and could have been spread by wild birds heading south for the winter. However, the RSPB’s campaigns manager, Andre Farrar, said that the charity considers this to be unlikely. DEFRA is currently investigating possible causes.

For more information on bird flu, how to spot it and how to report it, visit http://po.st/DEFRAbirdflu.