Mysterious outbreak in sealed Suffolk shed, UK

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    UPDATE: 13 July 2022 – this thread is about an outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu in a Bernard Matthews poultry facility in a “sealed” [huge] shed in Norfolk, England. First blamed on wild birds, wkth no evidence; later turned out that likely related to company importing poultry products from Hungary, from area near known outbreaks in poultry.

    As an article quoted in one of the comments here notes:

    //The scandal of how bird flu came to Britain has exposed the grubby world of the poultry trade – one that appears unhygienic and under-regulated.//

    Hi, seems to me unexplainably like the outbreak on Ruegen / Germany in 2006.

    //[.. It is not yet clear how the animals were infected with H5N1, although Britain’s deputy chief veterinary officer said it may have been carried by a wild bird. ..]

    The poultry flocks in their (nearly perfect) isolation were infected by wild birds? And where was the Virus in the meantime, between march 2006 and today? Best greets, Werner//

    Martin W

      Just goes to show the Tooth Fairy Bird is a mysterious creature!



      Hi Martin,

      maybe there’s an scientific explanation of the Tooth Fairy Bird. Must be an new species with nonlocal abilities, so that an cooperation between the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute and the CERN ( is indicated. The Tooth Fairy Bird beams from one location in zerotime to another, that’s it.

      Because the known problem to measure the spin in both axis of photons the Tooth Fairy Bird is, beyond that, unfortunately invisible.

      I believe that i should inform Thomas Mettenleiter about these new realizations immediately. ;)

      Best greets,

      Post edited by: Werner, at: 2007/02/04 15:56


      In addition, the Tooth Fairy Bird must be an very small but courageous creature:

      Professor Oxford: “The most likely explanation is that a small bird has come in through a ventilation shaft.”


      Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/02/07 08:13

      Martin W

        Just sent following to UK flu expert Prof John Oxford’s email address:

        Dear Professor Oxford: Seen BBC quoting you as saying wild bird likely carried H5N1 into the sealed shed in Suffolk. Hope you were misquoted; otherwise, seems you have woeful (very outdated?) lack of knowledge re H5N1 and wild birds. I’m birder/conservationist, based in Hong Kong; studied bird migration, and done much on H5N1 and wild birds, inc in 2003/04 when spread in Asia largely ignored in west. No wild bird species known to be able to survive and sustain and spread H5N1 (yes, quite different for natural wild bird flus – but we’re not talking about generic info of yesteryear here). I’m attaching article I wrote on the Tooth Fairy Bird: tongue in cheek, but inc some science. Also a strong paper, which includes evolutionary biology. (In Waterbirds; not attached here.) Hope these are of some interest. – not attaching here; but you can read New to Science – the Tooth Fairy Bird on this forum. Given Dead Ducks Don’t Fly (and dead swans won’t fit thro narrow entrances to BM’s turkey shed), how might H5N1 have travelled from Hungary to UK? As you’ll be aware, crates etc long known to carry bird flu: "In the United States in 1925, "People were shipping poultry to New York live bird markets. Then dirty, contaminated crates were being shipped back." This contributed to the spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak."

        Puzzling that you should blame wild birds so readily, and without any scientific basis. (Indeed, you are wonderfully vague in blaming "wild birds" – this is woeful for a prominent scientist.) Best regards, Dr Martin Williams

        Also sent following to a tv news journalist:

        It’s shocking and troubling that it’s new concept to you re H5N1 being spread by roads etc. Hopefully Richard can be huge help here. I’ve done much on H5N1 and wild birds – since around 2003/04, when spread in Asia blamed on migratory birds, but with nary a shred of decent evidence. This before the west seemed to notice the disease exists. Annoyed me that wild birds so readily blamed. yet had no voices of their own to speak out (while four poultry industry, officials not wanting to admit potential troubles, and industry people not liking ideas of trouble at t’farms). Did a map for this, showing timings etc were quite wrong. Crucially: H5N1 kills wild birds (most). Hard to carry a disease around when it kills you! ("Dead ducks don’t fly" I’ve noted – after email I received from a bird flu expert). Compare regular wild bird flus: mild, which not surprising given must be spread by birds that can fly, even migrate v long distances. No wild bird species shown capable of surviving and sustaining and spreading H5N1. Get vaguge blame of "wild birds"; I wrote attached on "Tooth Fairy Bird". Some tongue in cheek, but there’s science there. (I’ve phd in phys chem, but long been birding, inc migration studies in China). Also attaching a strong scientific paper – if you’ve time, could be big help; this posted to aiwatch group by Richard. Again, no use if can’t find wild bird that can sustain and spread h5n1. Grain report too a big help. Also a map someone sent me on Turkey outbreaks last year: cf highway and outbreaks. Declan Butler of Nature did H5N1 maps w Google Earth; inc one showing some apparent correlation w spread west last winter, with Trans-Siberian Railway. (A question: as it spread west, why was it near absent from much of Asia last winter? No wild migratory birds known infected, from Caspian Sea East – I live in Hong Kong; we’ve a major wetland reserve. Not one case of H5N1 at the reserve itself, despite disease being around here for over a decade, and tens of thousands of waterbirds migrating here each year). Poultry industry well knows even dirty crates etc can spread flu. In one case in US, carried on dirty crates for some distance (a few hundred miles). As Grain notes, money involved in industry huge. Try googling, too, re Joseph Domenech, chief vet of FAO, being annoyed by BBC asking questions – his reply along lines that if can’t farm this way, hard to feed people. Farming promoted by FAO includes feeding poultry manure and even bits of dead chickens to fish in fish farms. H5N1 can survive pretty well in water; rather better at surviving in warmer water than typical flus (after some evolution in warmer parts of Asia, where few wild ducks but many fish ponds?) There is link w farm ducks in Thailand, but even these can’t sustain h5n1 for long term it seems I’ve noticed Bob McCracken, a retired vet, has made noises re flu; readily blamed wild birds w zip decent science. Googled him, and strong links to poultry organisations. interesting, too, that H5N1 variants of concern maybe have ancestor in an h5n1 found a few decades ago in UK poultry (in turkeys if I recall rightly) – hmm, maybe in chicken in Scotland in 1959, tho H5N1 in UK again in 1991 – and that time, was in a turkey Bootiful, just bootiful Martin

        Hi Martin,

        well done.

        The latest news related to Bernardmatthews Poultry: According to an OIE spokesman was the H5N1 strain in GB nearly the same as in Hungary, so “It is proven that the Virus was carried by livestock transports”

        (Sorry, at this time found only in german)

        Would been better for Professor Oxford to keep silence.. ;)



        Martin W

          And yet, seems Oxford persists in blaming wild birds; just quoted in Times online, re small bird popping down ventilation shaft.
          Waterfowl are likeliest carriers

          I’ve sent comment (who knows if will appear on site):

          If wild birds in UK were infected with H5N1, we’d see significant mortality.

          No wild bird species shown to be able to survive and sustain and spread H5N1.

          Though of course, “wild birds” are ready scapegoats – the Tooth Fairy Bird persists, and in John Oxford’s brain has now shrunk and popped down a ventilation shaft (caught a deadly disease in Hungary, flew unseen and without infecting others, all the way to Suffolk, where it flew right down the shaft, and dematerialised).


          – but not all media reporting on wild birds only. Seen this info, re report on UK Channel 4 tv news:

          They reported that the H part of the H5N1 in the Suffolk outbreak is very closely related to
          the Hungarian H5N1 strain. (Info from UK Govt).

          Secondly, there have been lorries travelling from north-west Hungary carrying poultry meat
          from SaGa factories (owned by Bernard Matthews) directly to the Suffolk farm.

          When the above was put to the Envt Minister, his reaction was say that the Hungarian
          outbreak and the SaGa farm were a long way away from each other. [True, but the next news
          item was Russia and Japan ban imports of UK poultry…perhaps SE to NW Hungary isn’t such a
          long distance after all].

          The TV interviewer then asked the Minister why it was that “biosecure” farms were most at
          risk, and quoted a US Govt paper that had come to this conclusion. The Minister had no
          answer to that one…!


          Martin wrote:

          And yet, seems Oxford persists in blaming wild birds; just quoted in Times online, re small bird popping down ventilation shaft. Waterfowl are likeliest carriers

          I’ve read the same here in Germany. The best joke was released by the European Union itself: "Possibly sea gulls, which were frequent in the region, would have transferred the virus."

          My comment: Possibly the course of an albatros was diverted by the stubborn low "Kyrill" 2 weeks ago, and blown directly into the ventilation shaft of BernardMatthews. Another version may be that an H5N1 positive greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) – as an effect of global warming – was running from Hungary to GB and captured an waterbike after the assassination attempt at the English coast and is now on the way to Cuba.. Greets, Werner


          David Miliband spreads John Oxfords awful stuff: Found this today

          Great Britain: Search for transmitter As the British environmental minister David Miliband of the BBC on Tuesday said, finding "uppermost priority" has as the H5N1-virus could reach the company. Miliband holds the transmission through a wild bird most probably. About 160 000 turkeys of the enterprise Bernard Matthews had been culled within 48 hours. Around the mast company near getting-clay in the south-east-English earldom Suffolk a three kilometer protected area is valid since the weekend. The British Department of Health, Education and Welfare followed according to BBC-information the council furthermore from experts and increased his stock of the flu medicine Tamiflu. The British authorities keep on assuring, however, that for people hardly a danger exists.

          I think it is necessary to find out the lobbyistic background of such "reportings". The blog of David Miliband:

          (Take a look at the comments on "Bird Flu" too)

          By the Way: New realizations about Tamiflu "Potential Risks Associated with the Proposed Widespread Use of Tamiflu"  Werner

          Martin W

            Hi Werner:

            Many thanks for this info.

            Just checked Miliband’s blog; see there are already comments asking why he’s blaming wild birds.

            I’ve submitted this comment (may take a day before posted, if indeed posted):


            Indeed surprising you blame wild birds, when no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this notion.

            No wild bird species known to be able to survive and sustain and spread H5N1.
            V hard to find a living wild bird with H5N1, which lethal to most creatures it infects; and Dead Ducks Don’t Fly, so aren’t best vectors of flu.
            – hence my suggesting the species being blamed is the Tooth Fairy Bird.

            I live in Hong Kong – around epicentre of H5N1 (albeit of recent strains, which may have ancestor from UK a few decades ago).
            No wild migratory ducks [don’t have geese] yet found here with H5N1. Yet if wild birds were good vectors, shouldn’t H5N1 be rife in our waterbirds?

            If H5N1 were in UK’s wild birds, there would be significant mortality. Or, maybe one Tooth Fairy Bird flew from Hungary to Suffolk, right iinto ventilation shaft of the turkey shed, then dematerialised?

            If you have your secretary email my secretary (well, email me), I’d be happy to send you copy of paper from Waterbirds, with sound science re wild birds and H5N1.
            Armed with science, maybe you can look for real culprit – like, err, a truck from BM’s operations in Hungary.


            Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/02/08 10:57


            Hi Martin:

            At this time i am creating a print publication against blaming wild birds, containing a brief history about the upcoming of H5N1 in poultry flocks since 1959 (strain A/chicken/Scotland/59), the media policy and the kind of the published “reportings”, lobbyism of poultry industry and pharma concerns etc.

            I am in contact to Klemens Steiof too (this moment he’s cutted off from any media, observing Aquatic Warbler in Senegal ’til next week, so i think he heard nothing abot the suffolk outbreak) . Thougt i would have finished my publication next week, but may be it would an good idea to extend it (related to Hungary and UK)..


            Martin W

              From the Times:

              Bernard Matthews admitted for the first time today the possibility that it may have been responsible for an outbreak of lethal bird flu at one of its turkey farms in Suffolk – but said that its paperwork appeared to prove that it had done nothing wrong.

              Britain’s largest turkey producer is facing an inquiry after it emerged last night that it had imported 37 tonnes a week of partly-processed turkey meat from Hungary despite an outbreak there last month of the H5N1 strain of avian flu that has caused more than 100 deaths in Asia.

              The company is also being investigated for breaking EU hygiene regulations by leaving processed poultry outside sheds at a food processing site on the farm, senior Whitehall sources say.

              After analysis of the virus’s DNA showed that the strains from the UK outbreak in Holton and the Hungarian outbreak were probably identical, Sir David King, the Government’s Chief Scientist, today described the Hungarian hypothesis as the “most likely scenario”.

              Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Environment Secretary, called today on Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – to come forward and make a statement about the outbreak and subsequent investigation.

              Mr Ainsworth told BBC News 24: “I think the question for Government is where are the ministers? This is a matter of significant public concern and we have not had anything since Monday from Government ministers on the subject, certainly not about the questions now being raised about the links between Hungary and Suffolk.

              “There is a degree of public anxiety about this and if I was a Defra minister, rather than leaving it to my officials to make explanations, I would want to come forward and say what my position was. There are also questions to be answered about what ministers knew and when, and if they had information last Monday, why didn’t they disclose that information?”

              Bernard Matthews admits ‘possible’ Hungarian bird flu link

              Martin W

                Good article in the New Statesman, by science ed of the times, on tendency for wild birds to be rapidly blamed for H5N1 outbreaks, then details suggesting there are other reasons.

                [re Suffolk outbreak] for Matthews, and his fellow poultry industry moguls, whose factory farms dot East Anglia, there is a more important consolation. This is that both the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the public have been so easily persuaded that wild birds were the likely source of the outbreak.
                Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, was quick to offer such an explanation when the outbreak was confirmed as the dreaded H5N1. “The most likely source is a wild bird,” he declared firmly. “Faeces on the concrete outside could have been walked in by a worker or it could have been deposited on the roof.”
                It was a claim without the least shred of evidence. Confirmation of the H5N1 strain had come less than two hours earlier and the scientific investigation had yet to begin. But Bradnock’s suggestions ran far and wide in the national media.

                how likely is it that an infected bird managed first to target a turkey farm and then to bypass all the defences set up to prevent such break-ins?

                Those pushing the wild birds- as-vector thesis often cite the mass outbreak of H5N1 among geese in Qinghai Lake, northern China in 2005. The lake is on an intersection of the migratory routes of many different bird species, so a theory quickly emerged of how the virus was then carried westwards by migratory birds to Kazakhstan, Russia and even Turkey.
                It was an attractively simple explanation, and widely repeated – but the truth was more complex. Qinghai Lake is also at the centre of a thriving intensive poultry and fish-farming industry. The industry is highly integrated – so much so that chicken faeces from the farms are fed to the fish. The farms around Qinghai trade birds and eggs with others in Lanzhou, the source of infected poultry that also caused an outbreak of H5N1 in Tibet, 1,500 miles away.
                Similarly, when avian flu broke out in a village in Turkey in 2005, the poultry industry was quick to blame migratory birds. But once media interest faded, it emerged that a nearby factory farm had been importing birds from the Far East and trucking old chickens to local markets, an equally likely source.
                The global trade in poultry feed is another wild card.

                A wild goose chase

                Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/02/10 01:18

                Martin W

                  The chicken manure is really hitting the fan in the UK.

                  Report in the Observer includes:

                  The scandal of how bird flu came to Britain has exposed the grubby world of the poultry trade – one that appears unhygienic and under-regulated.

                  Last Thursday, The Observer revealed on its website that government officials had actually known for some days that the outbreak of the H5N1 virus, which led to the gassing of 160,000 turkeys in Suffolk, might have been caused by a shipment of meat brought over from Bernard Matthews’ Saga Food plant in Hungary to the company’s plant in Holton, Suffolk.

                  For reasons that still remain unclear, no one in the government made this information public even though it had been known to officials in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since Monday. Neither Environment Secretary David Miliband nor agriculture ministers Ben Bradshaw and Lord Rooker mentioned it in parliamentary answers on the issue.

                  It was for this reason that a Whitehall source came to The Observer to reveal the link, and their unease over the secrecy.

                  Grubby scandal shames our poultry industry
                  The Observer’s website revealed last week that ministers were kept in the dark about the Hungarian connection to Bernard Matthews’s turkeys. Now the fall-out from H5N1 will hit shoppers, politicians and a multi-billion-pound business

                  The Times is also reporting on “scandal”:

                  THE government allowed Bernard Matthews to continue importing turkey meat from a bird flu-hit region of Hungary even though it suspected the area was the source of the British outbreak.

                  A consignment of 20 tons of turkey was imported last Tuesday from a slaughterhouse in Hungary, three days after avian flu was confirmed at the Bernard Matthews plant in Suffolk.

                  Government inspectors knew in advance that Bernard Matthews intended to import the meat from a slaughterhouse only 30 miles away from the Hungarian outbreak – but did nothing to stop it.

                  Scandal over ‘bird flu’ imports

                  “the grubby world of the poultry trade” has been little exposed to date – tho readers of this forum have known much about it for some time; but now in the spotlight.
                  Hopefully, far less easy to readily blame “wild birds” for H5N1 spread.

                  And, can maybe reduce panicked silliness, as just in the Philippines – where a sickly heron promptly killed and buried over bird flu fears.
                  Suspected bird-flu carrier alarms Sorsogon officials

                  Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/02/11 09:22

                  “The Sunday Times reported today that the Government allowed Bernard Matthews to continue importing turkey meat from a bird flu-hit region of Hungary even though it suspected the area was the source of the British outbreak.

                  A consignment of 20 tons of turkey was imported last Tuesday from a slaughterhouse in Hungary, three days after avian flu was confirmed at the Bernard Matthews plant in Suffolk.

                  Government inspectors knew in advance that Bernard Matthews intended to import the meat from a slaughterhouse only 30 miles away from the Hungarian outbreak – but did nothing to stop it.

                  A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admitted on Saturday that it had the power to block such meat imports but had decided not to do so.”

                  “It meant that meat potentially carrying the flu virus was carried straight through protective cordons set up around the Suffolk plant to prevent the spread of avian flu.

                  The Hungarian meat was then processed at the plant in Holton, where a near-identical strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus had led to the cull of nearly 160,000 turkeys.

                  Investigators from the Food Standards Agency were this weekend checking to see if any of the processed imported meat had been distributed to shops. The investigation could lead to a mass recall of Bernard Matthews products.”

                  “On Tuesday the vets were notified by Bernard Matthews about a new consignment of 40 tons of poultry from Hungary. Half was from the company’s headquarters in the northwest, but the other half was from the slaughterhouse in the bird flu-hit southeast of the country.

                  Despite the fact that the slaughterhouse in Kecskemet was just 30 miles from the restricted zone, and despite the suspicions over its link to the British outbreak, vets decided not to block the imports.
                  On Tuesday the vets were notified by Bernard Matthews about a new consignment of 40 tons of poultry from Hungary. Half was from the company’s headquarters in the northwest, but the other half was from the slaughterhouse in the bird flu-hit southeast of the country.

                  Despite the fact that the slaughterhouse in Kecskemet was just 30 miles from the restricted zone, and despite the suspicions over its link to the British outbreak, vets decided not to block the imports.”

                  “Mr Miliband denied misleading Parliament about the suspected Hungarian link to the Suffolk bird flu outbreak, insisting that he kept MPs informed of the latest advice the Government was receiving from scientists. He said it was now clear that there had been “a bio-security lapse” at the Suffolk factory farm which allowed contamination to get from a processing plant into the sheds housing live birds.

                  A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said that the import of the 20 tons of meat was “perfectly legal”, as it came from outside a 10km exclusion zone and a 30km restriction zone around the site of the Hungarian case.”




                  Post edited by: Werner, at: 2007/02/11 21:09



                  Bernard Matthews firm could face prosecution over bird flu outbreak
                  By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
                  Published: 12 February 2007

                  Lorry-loads of poultry products could have been transported out of the British farm which suffered a major outbreak of bird flu, the Government has admitted.

                  An exclusion zone was put in place around the Bernard Matthews plant in Holton when the deadly strain of H5N1 was identified last week. But a diplomatic row was brewing last night between London and Budapest after Hungary said that tons of meat had been sent from Holton to the central European country since the restrictions were imposed.

                  Lajos Bognar, Hungary’s chief vet, told Channel 4 News: “I can say that from the protection zone, from the UK, six trucks arrived from there last week to Hungary.”

                  His claim brought a bizarre new twist to the avian flu saga as experts believe that the Suffolk cases can be traced directly back to an outbreak of an identical strain of the H5N1 virus in Hungary. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) conceded such shipments out of Holton could have taken place since the avian flu outbreak.

                  A spokesman said: “Depending on the type of product, date of slaughter and which farm it originated on, it is possible that poultry product from the Suffolk plant could have met the licensing requirements for movement outside the restricted area.”

                  Channel 4 claimed that the decision to grant the licence would have been made before it was clear that poultry, rather than wild birds, was the likely source of the infection.

                  The Government was also forced to defend a decision to continue allowing imports of turkey meat from Hungary after the H5N1 virus was discovered there. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, called for a Commons statement on Defra’s effort to protect the public from “what would be a devastating mutation into a virus contagious between humans”.

                  But Defra insisted that it had been legal to import the meat as it originated from outside the “restriction zone” around the Hungarian infection. David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, said that blocking imports from a wider area would have been a breach of EU rules and could have invited a devastating continent-wide retaliation against the UK poultry industry.

                  Meanwhile, the Government hinted that Bernard Matthews could be prosecuted over the bird flu outbreak as fears grew that infected turkey could have entered the human food chain. Ministers said it was now clear there had been a “biosecurity lapse” at the Suffolk plant.

                  Investigators are focusing on the import of turkey meat by the company from a slaughterhouse 30 miles from the source of the Hungarian outbreak of avian flu. One possibility is that the meat became cross-contaminated in the slaughterhouse with the virus and brought small doses of it into the UK. It could then have been transferred at Holton into sheds housing live birds.


                  Martin W

                    Reports now of significant hygiene problems at the Bernard Matthews’ farm with the H5N1 outbreak – which now seems far less mysterious.

                    from BBC:

                    Meat firm Bernard Matthews was warned several times about hygiene lapses at its Suffolk turkey farm before bird flu broke out, an official report says.
                    Inspectors saw gulls feeding on waste left in uncovered bins and buildings with holes big enough for rats, the environment department, Defra, said.

                    Its report concluded the most likely cause of the Holton outbreak two weeks ago was poultry imported from Hungary.

                    The Defra investigation found that:

                    Pest control workers noted last month that large numbers of gulls attracted to uncovered bins full of trimmings from turkey breasts
                    This had also been a problem last year
                    Gulls were observed carrying turkey waste away and roosting on the roof of the turkey houses 500 metres away
                    There were holes in the houses that could have allowed birds or rodents in
                    Polythene bags containing residue of liquid waste could have blown around the site
                    Plastic-covered bales of wood shavings used as bedding were kept outside
                    Defra stressed that its investigation into the outbreak was still going on.

                    Defra said wild birds were unlikely to be the source of the outbreak – as H5N1 has not been found in such birds since August last year, and surveillance at the Holton plant failed to find any infected animals.

                    Hygiene ‘lapses’ at bird flu site

                    The Times has report including:

                    This catalogue of biosecurity failures is in stark contrast to the glowing appraisal of the company by Bernard Matthews himself. Mr Matthews spoke this week about his pride in his business, which he said had always abided by EU rules.

                    He denied that the company had acted evasively since the outbreak and said: “There has been absolutely no cover-up at our end. I’ve been upset about allegations that we may have withheld information. That is completely untrue.”

                    In a further statement the company welcomed the government report, saying it showed that the company had always acted legally.

                    Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman, said: “This report high-lights serious biosecurity lapses at Bernard Matthews’ plant in Suffolk. Allowing wild birds to feed on raw poultry meat left in the open is highly irresponsible as it could lead to widespread contamination. The impression is still of an organisation in denial about the seriousness of events at its plant.

                    Matthews could be prosecuted over hygiene at bird flu factory

                    I think it’s worth noting this is a major poultry farm, in developed country with democracy and free press.
                    Consider what situations might be in various other countries.


                    As Japanese scientists believe to have now determined, rats could have carried the virus in the case of the outbreak on the island Kyushu into the sheds (I to hold it thereby for more probably that rats viruses from the sheds carried.).

                    (The AHO News in german:

                    Also with Bernard Matthews is to have concerned that it was a paradise for rats. The official version professor Oxfords became probably reads: The Tooth fairy bird met in the ventilation shaft with the rats to a conspiratorial meeting, sneezed these thereby strongly in their faces, and the rats infected then for their part the turkeys.

                    The factory farm at the centre of the bird flu alert was a haven for scavenging birds and rats, while the turkey sheds were filthy with dilapidated roofs.

                    The damning picture emerged from an official inquiry into the outbreak on a Suffolk farm at the heart of the Bernard Matthews turkey meat empire. ..



                    PS: Martin, i think we need an expert in migratory rats. May be the Tooth fairy bird is an rat piper (modern variant of the Hameln Pied Piper)? :P

                    Post edited by: Werner, at: 2007/02/20 10:11

                    Martin W

                      I’ve just posted to aiwatch:

                      Hungary/UK just showing what we’ve known from the start: barking mad to suggest Qinghai is a wild bird form of the virus (esp given its impact at Qinghai – no way that was a strain that has evolved within birds; not unless you suspend disbelief in natural selection).

                      Martin W

                        .. continued

                        Many moons ago, I queried Guan Yi re this and Poyang virus, and he replied they indeed lacked info on H5N1 in viruses in poultry in n China – even near Poyang, let alone Qinghai. potential Lanzhou link could explain much: but who is really investigating that?.

                        Received the following from Prof John Oxford – who as earlier pointed out, is UK flu expert who said some daft things on BBC website.
                        Oxford had said – on beeb: “We know that H5N1 is transmitted silently by migrating birds. The warm weather will have affected their migration patterns. So the chances are that is how it has reached Suffolk. … A very small bird could have made it through the ventilation system.”

                        I sent him email; reply just in:

                        ” Thank you for the 2 papers [Tooth Fairy Bird hardly a paper! other was Waterbirds paper]. Obviously it is still not clear how virus entered the sheds but we know that small birds such as sparrows can enter ventilation shafts and so could carry virus contaminated fomites.
                        Alternatively staff could break regulations and carry virus fomites into the unit. Influenza certainly killed terns in SA in the 60’s but still the evidence is that most of the subtypes are circulating between moving waterfowl as an enteric infection. This does not seem to affect migration. “

                        I’ve responded: inc that if he is referring to sub-types of H5N1, the evidence is powerfully against wild birds carrying it (as real vector).

                        Seems the Prof is indeed somewhat isolated from reality in the glory of his ivory tower. Intellectual laziness here.
                        Sadly, he is hardly alone in evident confusion between natural bird flus and H5N1 – and figuring that what applies with natural wild bird flus must also apply to H5N1, never mind glaring evidence to the contrary. [How can anyone really believe that a virus known to have caused significant mortality in wild birds is “transmitted silently” by them? Surely a profoundly stupid notion.]

                        On lighter note, just noticed on beeb site that Prof O also said:
                        “I don’t believe last year’s incident was overstated. It was a huge educational exercise: people know now that a dead swan is potentially dangerous.”
                        – something of Monty Python like hilarity here. A dead swan, washed up on a beach, and everyone supposed to leap about in fear. But, we know it’s potentially dangerous, don’t we; lots of people have been savaged by dead swans…

                        Martin W

                          just posted to birdforum:

                          dandare asks:

                          why DEFRA, MHS or whoever was responsible for previously warning mr Matthews about breaches in hygene, did not make sure that he immediately took action to rectify the problems?

                          Might also ask why people like David Miliband and certain scientists (yes, step forward John Oxford) so quick to blame wild birds, yet curiously slow to recognise true cause.

                          In at least some cases, gotta be linked to reasons why Food and Agric Organisation’s been so ready to blame wild birds, and do so little public investigation into poultry trade inc smuggling, and feeding of chicken waste to fish (a technique the FAO has promoted; but quietly drawn back from).
                          Plus plenty of

                          ie – Industrial poultry farming is big business. (see, eg, Grain report)
                          and you can pity the smallholders, sometimes forced to take birds indoors or even close because of threats from the Tooth Fairy Birds.

                          Interesting, too, that New Scientist has persistently blamed wild birds for spreading H5N1 – a real crap recent article tried to finger them for the Suffolk case. (I’m among a few folk who’ve tried correspondence with author, but no sense penetrated; instead, conservationists villified.)
                          Just a coincidence, then, that New Sci publisher just happens to also publish Poultry World, Farmer’s Weekly.

                          Graham: I recalled after my post, that Birdlife is partly constrained by politics.
                          My dad’s emailed that RSPB has been pretty quiet (apparently) re the H5N1 guff in UK. Here, too, surely some politics. Farming lobby not the best one for RSPB to upset.

                          Here in HK, following Mike’s post [re kestrel being found dead with H5N1 in urban HK], comes news of two more dead munias found in urban Kowloon and being tested for H5N1. One a scaly-breasted – native, but a bird of old rice fields not the city; the other a chestnut munia, which not native to HK but is also traded.
                          Here, too, wild birds have been readily blamed – indeed, I believe HK was first place to blame wild birds for bringing H5N1 (based on woeful evidence: no certainly migratory birds involved; great majority of dead birds were in captive collections). Govt has closed Mai Po a couple of times, never mind no H5N1 there (fingers crossed!!).
                          Yet, tackling more powerful bird trade and Buddhist associations – to whom catching wild birds, transporting them in horrendous conditions, then releasing in utterly wrong places brings “merit” – proving too much.


                          Hi Martin:

                          several month ago i wrote an article related to “Risk Communication”, titled “Medienseuche” – Wie H5N1 die Redaktionen befaellt” (“media epidemic” – like H5N1 the editorships strikes). The full article is available (in german) at

                          Here’s -in part – the automacally translated version – too much trouble for me to translate it manually.. :blush:

                          May be it nevertheless helps some readers to understand, what proceeds in the editorships.

                          How does it result actually in such media phenomena which ones always remind of “synchromesh” a little bit also in their appearance?

                          Cause 1 – “sales promotion” and “Story-Spinning”
                          It is natural for journalists – without scientific-technical medical training and faced with inconsistent expert opinions – difficult, theirs Criticism, Control and Morning warn-function to come later and to practice risk communication so that recipients can assess a danger potential realistically. Also self-interest of journalists and media enterprises at a “good story” are frequent, however, now during the risk communication with responsibly for the kind and manner, as risks in the media hysterized or also played down and to be kept quiet in a dead way.

                          Risk communication is public-dependent reporting[23]. Is blown up, which can be sold. Current, new risk topics wear a higher reporting chance than long-term topics, in this case that the reader and spectator shaft has accustomed. Such long-term risk topics are faded out then media because their market value was exhausted.

                          Common Over- and Underreporting above risks through the majority of the mass medium let in turn through research-economics declare. Under competition and time pressure time-consuming investigative research becomes a rare product [23]. Only an only source used [24 becomes frequent]. At complex risk themes journalists rely on top of that with pleasure on “official” springs (Kitzinger 1997: 325) or onto the opinion of that expert, that available and media-turned – however not absolutely scientific the first choice is (Grefe 2000; Thomann 2002).

                          Cause 2 – economics of the research
                          Finally also the colleague orientation appertains to the economics of the research. Journalists jump with pleasure onto the train of the other media – and also their errors write then off and/or away. The here examined project areas is one common: To follow in the financial statement payment just the same as in the risk communication journalists the herd instinct. Instead of “informing” about the real relations and developments, they become easy – without wanting it – “victims of groupthink” (Janis 1972; Kepplinger 2001) and in this way victim of “collective self-consciousness”. Just in a hard competition, so those ones have US- media economists Andrei Shleifer and found out Sendhil Mullainathan, media become often amazing in their reporting similar to. They interpret the phenomenon as a form of the herd behavior as it is to be observed also at financial markets.

                          The result is a reporting agreeing on big trains with which journalistic care and accuracy remain on the stretch: It can be rather “rational” to stamp with the herd consistently. According to this model it is often reasonable for the single journalist, an introduced topic, a plausible and to a large extent acknowledged history spreading – as long as the public is interested at that. On the other hand to take an alternative point of view and to prepare for the against search would be afflicted with more expenditure and with more economic risks. Who opposes the herd, risked to be trampled on. It is risky to disappoint the expectations of the heads, colleagues and also many media consumers. Latter ones could be induced to consuming another media product which rather corresponds to their expectations.

                          Economically squeezed out, media presented a great stimulus for the sake of the own advantage their reporting in hard competition slightly consumable, to adjust the research on one side and to leave out contradicting facts.

                          So also what must come out comes out then under the line: Stupid education citizens and less intelligent voters in the best of all systems. A rogue who thinks evil in this case.

                          Werner Hupperich

                          [23] “The competition and the time pressure of the media speed up topic careers and excitement cycles; To produce information shortcomings in a matched way with chronological pressure with the reporting rapid a charge of the opinion climate in which objective purification is in an exceptional way complicated. … The time for thorough journalistic research is granted less and less. In this way the danger increases from misjudgements, as also the danger of an instrumentalization of the media for the production of excitement cycles (” Quiver 2002″: 69 f). Willis states that quickness is even more important for the marketability of media nowadays than accuracy: “In fact, one could make the case that speed is more marketable today than accuracy. The publics appetite for the latest factoids and blips of the bizarre seems almost insatiable.” (Willis 1997: 20). An increase at research would contribute to the quality improvement of the risk communication unquestionably: «Their information» are «gotten for journalists and journalists in direct and personal meetings with springs, they work then more precisely and their ,storys’ less mistakes contain (» Schanne / Meier 1996»: 66).

                          [24] This economics of the research leads source variety to be lacked. According to Goepfert even science reports name only an only source in the high-quality press to 40 %. The half of the science reporting of German newspapers is based on agency announcements, a third of them on announcement of the dpa which employed only two science editors in 2001. Also on the subcontractor page saves (Goepfert 2001: 68-92).


                          Martin W

                            DEFRA report on the outbreak concludes:

                            Our conclusion is that infection was most likely introduced to GB via the importation of turkey meat from Hungary.

                            – so it seems the outbreak was self-inflected (by Bernard Matthews).

                            Yet, BM to receive almost £600,000 in compensation. :ohmy:

                            Martin W
                              Sun 13 May 2007 Source: The Telegraph, London, published: 11:37pm BST 12 May 2007 [edited] Hungary admits link with UK bird flu outbreak

                              Hungary has admitted for the first time that it may have been the source of the deadly flu virus that caused an outbreak at a British turkey farm. Bognar Lajos, Hungary’s deputy chief veterinary officer, conceded that the H5N1 virus could have gone undetected in a Hungarian turkey flock which was sent to slaughter. He said the meat might then have been exported by Bernard Matthews, the British poultry company, to its plant in Holton, Suffolk [England], before the virus infected birds there. Despite the admission, Mr. Lajos insisted that ultimately the blame for the British outbreak must lie with Bernard Matthews, which was criticised for shortfalls in its biosecurity in the wake of the scare. Mr. Lajos said: "It is possible that the virus was still in an incubation period in a flock and no symptoms would have been seen. Such a flock could have been sent to slaughter and the meat transported to the UK. The problem was not with Hungary though. The problem was Bernard Matthews and its biosecurity." Until now, officials in the east European country have flatly denied that the virus could have come from Hungary. The Csongrad region of the country, south-east of the capital Budapest, is the area in which 2 goose farms were hit by the virus in January [2007], weeks before the same strain infected a flock of Bernard Matthews turkeys. A report into the British outbreak by the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) concluded that the most plausible explanation was that the infection had been introduced to Britain through imported turkey meat from Hungary. Britain’s poultry industry is still paying the price of the bird flu outbreak. Research by the analysts Nielsen shows turkey sales have fallen by 29 percent over the past 3 months while sales of frozen turkeys are down 33 percent on last year [2006]. The industry is thought to have lost sales worth more than GBP 9.4 billion [USD 18 629 295 598]. Sales at Bernard Matthews have also dropped dramatically, although the company insists the decline has been halted. Last month, the multi-million pound company was paid GBP 600,000 [USD 1 189 199] in compensation by the Government for the 160,000 birds it had to cull as a result of the outbreak. In Hungary, however, the goose farmers affected by bird flu shortly before the British outbreak say they are still waiting for compensation. In a dingy shed on the Kolos Agro farm in Szentes-Lapisto, Csongrad, Garai Tibor, a farmer, described how just a few months ago it had been full of geese. Now, the only evidence of the 3335 birds that once inhabited his 3 55-yard huts is a small patch of feathers on the ground. "The outbreak has given us a bad name, but I am not angry about that," he said. "It was bad luck that the virus came to our farm. I am angry that we have been blamed for the English outbreak though when they seem to have brought the infection upon themselves. We did nothing wrong, while they had all these problems. How is it they have received all this money?" Mr. Tibor has been forced to lay off 3 workers from the local village and has lost more than 74 million Hungarian forints (GBP 200,000) [USD 403 735]. Under European legislation, member states can have half of any compensation given to farmers hit by bird flu outbreaks paid by the European Commission. A spokesman at the EC said it had received no application for compensation for either of the farms hit by the outbreak. However, Mr Lajos insisted that between them, the two farms had received about 100 million forints [USD 544 993] from his government. Szekely Zsolt, who owns the other farm in nearby Derekegyhaz, refused to comment. A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: "None of the investigations to date has been conclusive about the causes of the outbreak." (Byline: Richard Gray in Budapest, Sunday Telegraph) — Communicated by: Mary Marshall, ProMED Correspondent [It has long been known that delays in paying compensation have a very negative impact on persuading farmers to report suspect outbreaks of disease in their animals. Without prompt reporting, even the best government service will be severely hampered. And then come the temptations to pre-emptively slaughter healthy in-contact stock, and all that that implies. – Mod.MHJ]

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