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By Nigel Hunt
LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has spread to a second poultry farm in Britain in a fresh blow to a farm sector reeling from recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue.
An agriculture ministry spokeswoman said the farm was one of the "dangerous contacts" established last week and all the turkeys at the site in the east of England have been culled.
"It appears the infection has been caught early because when the birds were inspected they appeared to be clinically healthy," she added.
The farm ministry announced last week it was culling turkeys at four sites which shared the same workforce as the Redgrave Park farm on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk where the original case was confirmed on November 13.
Redgrave Poultry, which operates all five farms, said a small number of turkey culled at Hill Meadow farm in Knettishall, Norfolk had tested positive. The farm had 9,000 turkeys and is located just a few miles from Redgrave Park.
The company said culls had now been completed at all five farms. Results are still awaited from two of the sites.
"The laboratory test results today highlight the importance of poultry keepers in the area being extremely vigilant," acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg said in a statement.
Landeg had warned on Friday there was a very high risk of finding new cases during the next few days with the spread of the disease still at a very early stage.
The ministry spokeswoman said a new protection zone had been established around the second farm and a surveillance zone had been extended.
The virulent H5N1 strain has killed more than 200 people worldwide since 2003 and millions of birds either have died from it or been killed to prevent its spread.
RELATED TO CZECH, GERMANY
Landeg has said the strain in Britain is closely related to outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Germany this summer.
Britain’s livestock sector has had a tough year which started with an earlier outbreak of the H5N1 virus strain in February at a turkey farm in Suffolk, eastern England.
An outbreak of foot and mouth livestock disease, the first cases of bluetongue disease, which also affects sheep and cattle, and soaring feed costs have added to the sector’s woes. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Michael Roddy)