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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 09:53 GMT
Bird flu outbreak plan 'in place'
 Police seal off the area with cordon tape around a Bernard Matthews turkey farm
Exclusion zones have been set up
Plans are in place to deal with any outbreak of bird flu in Wales, says Assembly Environment Minister Carwyn Jones.

That plan would be "very similar" to the one now being used to control an outbreak of bird flu in Suffolk.

Nearly 160,000 turkeys have been culled at the Bernard Matthews farm near Lowestoft after the H5NI strain of the disease was identified.

Mr Jones said the disease would be fought in a similar way in Wales.

"We're talking about a disease here that would be approached in a common way across the UK," the minister told BBC Wales.

"So that if we were to find a farm in Wales went down with avian flu, we would then move onto dealing with exclusion areas around the farm, we would move on then to culling the birds."

Medical treatment

Mr Jones said if an outbreak was identified in Wales, the assembly government would use rendering plants across the whole of the UK.

He said that they had also been ensuring stocks of Tamiflu are available.

"Tamiflu is a drug that reduces flu symptoms, it doesn't actually prevent people getting flu in the first place, " said Mr Jones.

"We do know it's quite difficult for people to get bird flu from birds you have to be in very close contact with birds.

"So poultry workers would be first in line for any kind of medical treatment if there was an outbreak in Wales."

Vehicles are sprayed clean as they leave Bernard Matthews turkey farm
Vehicles are sprayed as they leave the Bernard Matthews farm

He said poultry farmers were being asked to join the Poultry Keepers register so that they could be identified.

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan said he was confident about the way the Suffolk outbreak was being handled.

He told BBC Wales: "We have 22 sheds of birds on this one farm, and if we can contain it in this one shed we're well on the way to understanding how we can contain it in the UK."

Mr Vaughan said members were being advised to handle any dead birds they find "very carefully" and to avoid allowing their chickens to go out and mix with wild birds, although this was very difficult to ensure.

"There is a great deal of concern of course and we must never be complacent when we're dealing with a virus such as this one."

'Pandemic inevitable'

Dr Mike Simmonds, senior medical officer in communicable diseases for the Welsh Assembly Government, said the prime area of concern was for those working with poultry or to cull infected birds.

He gave reassurance that the current outbreak was not a human virus.

He said: "You can only catch it if you are working with a sick bird. Many millions of birds have gone down with this strain but the number of human cases is 200."

He added that a flu pandemic was inevitable at some point - but not necessarily one caused by the H5N1 strain.

"That's what history teaches us but we have got a lot of steps to go through before this strain is a human virus."

"It's the whole of the industry, we are very nervous"


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