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Farming & Bird Flu

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Bird Flu Farming And Bird Flu Poultry

Avian influenza, more commonly referred to as ‘bird flu’, has made the headlines over recent years with many thousands of birds on poultry farms being culled as a result. Although it can be transmitted from diseased birds to humans, this is quite rare and is only likely to occur in locations where people are working directly with birds but this is preventable providing you take the right steps and adopt the correct precautionary measures.

How is it Transmitted?

Bird flu can be transmitted by coming into direct contact with sick, dying or dead birds which have become infected. The disease can also live on for a while in any secretions left by infected birds, e.g. in respiratory secretions and via bird droppings which means that it can be found in contaminated bird pens, in feed, water, clothing and on other utensils or instruments which may have been used when coming into contact with the birds.

Recognising the Symptoms

For poultry farmers, the strongest indicators that your flock might be affected by bird flu are an unusual increase in mortality, birds which are showing signs of experiencing respiratory difficulties and a reduction in the production of eggs.

What to do if You Suspect Bird Flu

The first thing you should do is to contact your local vet for advice. If bird flu is suspected, you must contact your local Animal Health Divisional Office and notify them. This is mandatory. Your next course of action is to keep any workers away from the infected poultry and ensure that no poultry or its products, other livestock or any manure is moved off the premises.

Once a vet has visited and inspected the birds, if he/she suspects that there is just reason to suspect a notifiable disease, then the poultry farm and maybe even an area surrounding it will be cordoned off, placed under restriction and samples will then be taken away for further tests.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will also become involved and they will be able to offer advice and take any necessary measures to minimise its spread and to protect the workforce. This can include helping to manage the slaughter and disposal of infected birds and to also provide workers with the necessary anti-viral drugs and other equipment to control any possible threat to the health of the workforce.

Avoiding Infection

Both DEFRA and the Department of Health have issued guidelines on reducing the risk of human contamination where bird flu has been suspected or identified. This includes wearing appropriate protective clothing, washing hands and arms before eating or drinking, the use of respirators and to take extreme care in the cleaning and dressing of any grazes and cuts a worker may have.

Hygiene is key here though and even things like applying make-up, inserting and removing contact lenses and even using the telephone are all things which you need to be extremely vigilant about when a suspected outbreak of bird flu occurs. It’s also important to minimise hand to eye or hand to mouth contact during this period.

Of course, when working on poultry farms and other areas where there is a large gathering of birds, good hygiene is always going to be a fundamental necessity anyway and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are able to offer advice and guidance on issues like risk assessment and worker protection.

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