Over 10,000 Turkeys to Be Culled After Bird Flu Breakout in U.K.

About 10,500 turkeys are to be killed at a British farm after a bird flu breakout was discovered by health officials.

The birds will be "humanely culled" at the turkey fattening premises in North Yorkshire in a bid to limit the spread of the disease, the U.K. government said.

The H5N8 strain—which can spread to poultry when wild birds migrate from mainland Europe during winter—was found near the site in Northallerton on Saturday, it added.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was "urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread."

"Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately, and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises" Christine Middlemiss, the department's chief veterinary officer, said.

A temporary control zone of 3km (1.86 miles) and 10km (6.21 miles) has been put in place around the site. However, the agency, which works to protect against such outbreaks, Public Health England, said the risk is "very low" for the general public.

"To date the World Health Organization has never confirmed any cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to the public is considered very low," Dr. Gavin Dabrera, consultant in acute respiratory infections at PHE, said.

About 10 million turkeys are sold over the Christmas period every year in the U.K. Defra said that it did not expect this cull to impact on this year's supplies of turkeys.

A Food Standards Agency spokesperson added that "properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, remain safe to eat."

An investigation to determine the source of the outbreak is underway.

Turkeys Bread and Butter
File photo: Two turkeys, called Bread and Butter, received a 'pardon' from U.S. President Donald Trump last Christmas. More than 10,00 turkeys are to be culled in England after an outbreak of bird flu. Win McNamee/Getty

The outbreak is the latest in a string of others in the U.K. in recent months.

A number of swan deaths across the U.K. are reportedly being investigated over concerns they could be connected to a wave of avian flu.

Other small outbreaks of H5N8 have recently been confirmed in geese and swans in other parts of England—namely Gloucestershire, Devon and Dorset—while cases have also been found at poultry farms in Herefordshire and Cheshire.

A different strain, known as H5N2, was also discovered in Kent earlier this month. No human infection with that strain has ever been recorded, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Earlier this year, another strand of bird flu known as H5N1—which can in rare cases jump to humans—led to a cull of nearly 18,000 chickens in a Chinese city earlier this year. it came as Chinese authorities struggled to contain COVID-19.