MRSA found in poultry destined for shops

Image caption Wash your hands before and after handling meat, food hygiene experts advise

The first case of MRSA in poultry in the UK has been found in turkeys and chickens on a farm in East Anglia says the Department of Health (DH).

A spokesman said that two thirds of the turkeys on the farm, which hasn't been named, were found to be infected.

It is thought that hundreds of turkeys have already been sold to local retail outlets and farm gate sales. The farmer is cooperating.

Experts say the risk to the public is very low.

The spokesman said the strain of the disease found in the poultry - Livestock-Associated (LA) MRSA - "rarely caused disease in humans" and if it did would involved a mild skin infection which cleared up quickly.

LA-MRSA is different to the MRSA that causes the healthcare associated infections seen in people.

It can potentially pass from animals to humans through direct contact or through dust in animal housing, meaning poultry workers are at risk.

But LA-MRSA rarely causes disease in people and in most cases the bacteria clear within 24 hours.

Appropriate handling and cooking of raw meat should eliminate any risk of transmission to people.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency, said: "Any risk of contracting MRSA through meat from animals with these bacteria is very low when usual good hygiene and thorough cooking practices are observed. All poultry should be handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to destroy any bacteria that may be present."

Prof Angela Kearns of Public Health England said: "There are many different strains of MRSA that cause illness in people but this is not one of the strains that we are overly concerned about given the very low number of clinical infections that have been seen in people."

In the UK, since 1999, there have been published reports that MRSA has been isolated from dogs, cats and from a rabbit and a horse.

Other countries have reported cases in cattle and poultry.

Prof Peter Borriello, Chief Executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, said: "LA-MRSA has been identified in livestock in a number of countries and is not considered to represent a significant risk to animal health and welfare."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites