Bird flu outbreak in the North East forces closure of animal tourist attractions

An outbreak of bird flu across the region has forced a North Yorkshire Christmas attraction to close for the festive period.

Although there have been no cases on its site, Monk Park farm in Thirsk has sacrificed around fifty thousand pounds and turned away an estimated 3,500 visitors in order to safeguard their own flocks.

Their head animal keeper, Paul Elgey said: "We would have to have our birds culled on the farm and we really don’t want to lose them, because we want to protect our own animals and we don’t want it to spread to other people’s farms either."

An exclusion zone has also been put in place in Washington following the outbreak.

The Washington Wetlands Centre has also closed its doors as a precautionary measure to protect birds at its site and it's now a legal requirement to keep birds indoors, separate from wild birds, which spread the disease.

Monk Park Farm remain optimistic and are now organising safety measure to be able to open in the new year.

Their head of events, Hayley Cooke said: “What’s been really encouraging is the public have been really supportive of our decision and based on our decision they will show their support next year and that gives an opportunity to get things right, in terms of getting the site infrastructure, new developments and changes”

What is Avian Influenza?

More on the disease:

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds. In rare cases, it can affect humans.

There are lots of different strains of bird flu virus.

Most of them don't infect humans, but there are 4 strains that have caused concern in recent years:

  • H5N1 (since 1997)

  • H7N9 (since 2013)

  • H5N6 (since 2014)

  • H5N8 (since 2016)

It is strain H5N1 that is currently spreading in the UK

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How is it spread?

Birds can be infected with the avian influenza virus through contact with infected saliva, nasal secretions or faeces.

Wild birds including waterfowl are often more resistant to avian influenza than domestic birds and can carry and transmit the virus without showing evidence of disease.

Everyone, at all times but especially now, should take care to maintain good hygiene when feeding garden birds – regularly cleaning feeders outside with mild disinfectant, removing old bird-food, spacing-out feeders as much as possible and washing your hands.  

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