Scientific advisers for the British Government say that the UK should start vaccination trials on poultry to limit the spread of bird flu in the country.
A report by the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) has called on Defra to “develop specifications for trials, identification of potential field trial sites, and commission modelling studies (including assessment of required trial size and duration)” to support vaccination which should begin “as soon as possible”.
MSN reports: The report contains several recommendations to tackle avian influenza as the world continues to grapple with the biggest-ever outbreak of the virus, fuelled by the highly infectious H5N1 strain.
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The European Union has already given the green light to member states to begin vaccinating chickens and other poultry flocks.
Vaccinating poultry is currently not permitted in the UK, but i revealed in March that the government is actively considering the move to curb the virus.
The SAC report weighs up the benefits and costs of vaccination and warns that “vaccine formulations should allow differentiation between the infected and the vaccinated birds” which would allow flocks which had received the jab to be monitored for evolution of new virus strains which could “evade vaccine protection or pose a greater risk to human health”.
The risk to humans from bird flu is currently classed as low, but scientists are concerned that the virus is spreading to mammals and could evolve to become more transmissible between people.
Earlier this week it emerged that bird flu had been detected in a pack of bush dogs at a zoo in England. Ten of the dogs died in November after being fed with suspected infected bird carcasses, and scientists are investigating whether the virus spread within the pack.
Defra declined to say last night whether the recommendation for vaccine trials would be taken up.
Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said: “We are in the midst of the largest outbreak ever seen in this country and it is vital to have the very best science informing our approach.