Britain finds bird flu on duck farm

LONDON - A case of bird flu has been detected on a duck-breeding farm in northern England but it is not the deadly H5N1 strain, the government said on Monday, as officials began culling thousands of birds.

The announcement came a day after Dutch authorities said they had found the contagious H5N8 form of the disease at a poultry farm in the centre of the Netherlands, though it was not immediately clear if the cases were linked.

Britain's Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens told BBC radio that while the strain in the north of England was a serious disease for poultry, the country's Public Health body did not believe it posed a risk to humans.

"We know it's an H5 strain but not N1 ... On the basis of what we know of the strain to date, Public Health England has said that this strain does not present a threat to public health."

Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had set up a restriction zone around the farm in Yorkshire and was culling all poultry on the facility to prevent any spread of infection. A spokeswoman said that all 6,000 ducks on the site would need to be killed but it would take a number of days to identify the exact strain of the virus.

On Sunday, Dutch authorities said they had begun destroying 150,000 chickens at the farm where their case was found. That H5N8 strain has never been detected in humans, but an outbreak in South Korea meant millions of farm birds had to be slaughtered to contain the outbreak.

Cases have also been reported in China and Japan, although the strain was first reported in Europe, on a German farm, in early November.