Turkey supplies for Christmas dinners across the UK could be at risk amid the country's worst outbreak of Avian Bird Flu

The National Farmers' Union issued the warning following the culling of three million birds.

The news comes after Bird Flu was recorded at 155 sites across the UK and Avian Influenza Prevention Zones have been introduced in Norfolk, Suffolk, parts of Essex and the whole of the South West of England.

Wild bird populations have been severely affected but poultry farmers have begun to raise concerns over their livestock and whether Christmas turkey supplies could be impacted.

Bury Times: PAPA (Image: Canva)

Christmas turkeys at risk amid UK's worst bird flu outbreak

Speaking to Sky News, the chairman of the NFU Poultry Board James Mottershead, said:"It's a risk.

"If bird flu, for example, gets into turkeys that could cause holy carnage; that could cause real supply chain issues in the run-up to Christmas time. The realities of it are quite severe.

"I do know of some instances where seasonal turkey producers have been affected by this, so far, this year.

"If you have an outbreak on your farm and your farm is classed as an infected premises, it is serious - you could be out of production up for up to 12 months."

Can humans get bird flu?

The bird flu can affect humans but it depends on the strain of the virus, the NHS has said.

There is a very low risk to human health and food safety risk from avian influenza, according to public health advice.

Most strains aren't actually harmful to people but there are four that have raised concerns in recent years:

  • H5N1 (since 1997)
  • H7N9 (since 2013)
  • H5N6 (since 2014)
  • H5N8 (since 2016)

No humans have been infected with H5N1, H7N9, H5N6 or H5N8 bird flu in the UK which includes the type of H5N6 virus recently found in humans in China. 

The strains of bird flu that have been found in some poultry, other captive birds and wild birds in the UK are the H5N8 and H5N1 variants.

H5N6 has also been found in some wild birds in the UK but it is important to note that this is a different strain to that seen in China.

Bird flu is spread to humans by:

  • touching infected birds
  • touching droppings or bedding
  • killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

You also can't catch bird flu by eating fully cooked poultry or eggs, even if you're within an outbreak area.

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How to prevent yourself from catching bird flu

There are a few things that you can do to prevent yourself from catching bird flu and give you peace of mind:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially before and after handling food, especially raw poultry
  • use different utensils for cooked and raw meat
  • make sure meat is cooked until steaming hot
  • avoid contact with live birds and poultry

Bird Flu Symptoms

The NHS has said that bird flu symptoms can appear fairly quickly, usually within 3 to 5 days after being infected.

The symptoms could include any of the following:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough or shortness of breath

Other early symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea
  • sickness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

The NHS says that it's possible to develop more severe complications including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

To prevent complications and reduce the risk of developing severe illness, it recommends getting treatment quickly and using antiviral medicine.

For more information and NHS advice about bird flu, visit the NHS website.

You can keep up to date with the latest government guidance on Bird Flu via its website.