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Multiple cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been confirmed across the UK, following the emergence of a handful of other cases found earlier this month.

Government authorities confirm the risks to humans are limited, but activists disagree and are placing the blame on factory farming.

New cases

The Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed a case of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain in North Yorkshire, England on Friday, December 18.

By Saturday, December 19, two more cases were confirmed on a duck breeding site in Norfolk, and in a flock of backyard chickens in Dorset.

Regulations

Regulations have been tightened following the outbreak – meaning thousands of birds will be enclosed indoors to meet government requirements.

DEFRA called for all captive birds to be housed inside and kept in ‘thoroughly’ clean conditions. Any ‘affected’ birds have been culled, DEFRA confirmed, ‘to limit the risk of the disease spreading’.

Public Health England (PHE) claimed the risk to public health from all four strains is ‘very low’.

‘Deadly’

But Juliet Gellatley, of the leading vegan campaigning charity Viva!, warns the flu could be far more dangerous.

She said: “The emergence of H5N1 in Yorkshire is a worrying development. This type of bird flu is much more deadly than human flu with a mortality rate of 60 percent of people infected. 

“Currently, it does not spread human to human easily.  However, the factory farming of chickens gives the virus the opportunity to mutate and to jump to humans – if it mutates so that it can spread more easily we are in serious trouble.

“We truly need to end factory farming before it ends us.”

Disease-spreading environments

Just yesterday an undercover investigation found a number of poultry farms in the UK were in conditions that could lead to a ‘hotbed of disease’, according to Viva!.

The outbreak was first confirmed at the end of last month, where over 10,000 turkeys had to be killed at a farm in North Yorkshire.

Whilst government authorities claim the virus is ‘in no way connected’ to the COVID-19 pandemic, activists have linked the latest outbreak of bird flu to factory farming – and are calling for it to be banned.

Emily Baker

Emily is a News and Features Writer for Plant Based News. She has previously worked as a journalist in Devon, UK, reporting on local issues from politics to the environment.