LONDON, England (CNN) -- An outbreak of bird flu has been detected on a poultry farm in eastern England, British officials said Monday.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said tests had revealed avian influenza in turkeys on the premises near Diss on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk.
The agency said all birds on the infected premises will be culled, including approximately 5,000 turkey, 500 geese and over 1,000 ducks.
Initial tests revealed the H5 strain of the virus, the statement said. However, the agency said full confirmation results which would show whether this outbreak involved the far more contagious H5N1 strain were still being awaited.
While various bird flu strains can be transmitted to humans who are in close contact with infected birds, the H5N1 is of particular concern because health officials fear that it could mutate and be spread from human to human.
The agency said it expected results on the more dangerous H5N1 strain to take at least two days.
A two-mile protection zone and a six-mile surveillance zone are being established around the infected premises, the agency said.
A spokeswoman said the agency was informed of the outbreak on Sunday. She said inspectors visited the farm to carry out tests and that restrictions were placed on the farm late the same day.
The spokesman refused to confirm the name or exact location of the farm.
The agency said it is notifying all poultry keepers in Britain and that the European Commission has also been informed.
H5N1 is highly pathogenic and extremely contagious among birds, both by air and contact with feces. According to World Health Organization figures, 206 people have died worldwide from the H5N1 strain since 2003.
The Health Protection Agency said where appropriate it would provide antiviral drugs and the flu vaccine to anyone who had been in close contact with the infected poultry.
However, Professor Nigel Lightfoot, head of influenza programs at the agency, insisted the current level of risk to humans from the outbreak was extremely low.
"Most human H5 infections so far have occurred through direct contact with live or dead infected poultry," he said in a statement.
Among birds mortality is close to 100 per cent, with many of the infected animals dying on the same day they were infected.
In January this year, an outbreak of H5N1 killed 800 turkeys at the Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk. After the state veterinary service confirmed the deadly strain the entire 159,000-bird flock was slaughtered. E-mail to a friend
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