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Sitting Ducks: British, Dutch Kill Poultry to Fight Bird Flu

Image: Ducks in cages are seen at a duck farm in Nafferton
Ducks in cages are seen at a duck farm in Nafferton, northern England, Nov. 17. The European Commission on Monday praised the action taken by Britain and the Netherlands to contain their respective cases of bird flu, saying all protocols had been followed. In the British case, the virus was discovered at a duck farm in North Yorkshire. PHIL NOBLE / Reuters

Chickens were being killed in the Netherlands, and Britain was preparing to kill ducks, after two cases of bird flu were discovered in Europe — but officials insisted Monday that the risk to public health was very low.

Image: Police tape and warning signs are seen outside a duck farm in Nafferton, northern England
Police tape and warning signs are seen outside a duck farm in Nafferton, northern England, Nov. 17. PHIL NOBLE / Reuters

British officials said they were investigating a case of the H5 bird flu virus in northern England, but noted it's not the more dangerous H5N1 strain. They said all 6,000 ducks at a breeding farm in the Driffield area of East Yorkshire will be killed and a restriction zone was being set up to prevent further spread of the infection. Tests were also being carried out at nearby farms.

The U.K. government food agency said there is no risk to the food chain and British Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens told BBC the risk of the disease spreading is probably quite low.

It was the first bird flu outbreak in Britain in six years, officials said.

Image: Bird Flu
An expert wearing a protection suit works at a poultry farm, where a highly contagious strain of bird flu was found by Dutch authorities, in Hekendorp on Nov, 17. Marco de Swart / Reuters

The Dutch government, meanwhile, banned the transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands after finding the H5N8 strain of bird flu at a chicken farm. All 150,000 chickens at the farm in Hekendorp, 40 miles south of Amsterdam, were being killed and 16 other nearby farms were being checked. It was not clear how the farm became infected.

—Associated Press