Britain's contingency plan for an outbreak of bird flu in the country is being tested today and tomorrow with a real-time simulation of an infection.
Exercise Hawthorn uses hundreds of volunteers to simulate a bird flu outbreak from three days into the crisis. The DEFRA-run exercise includes organisations such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Environment Agency, Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence, and other Government departments. It is based on a scenario in which a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu is identified on a free range farm in Norfolk on day zero. On day two, two highly suspect cases are reported at a turkey farm in the North of England and an egg production unit in south Wales.
And what ironic timing! News is just coming in that bird flu has already reached Scotland. A dead swan in Fife has tested positive for the H5 strain of the virus, but whether it is the H5N1 strain - which can be deadly to humans - is not known. The conclusive results are expected tomorrow. The area has been sealed off, and if it is found to be the H5N1 strain, further restrictions will be put in place.
So whilst the emergency services are gallavanting around the country on Exercise Hawthorn, bird flu hits our shores. Whilst Londonist doesn't condone the mass hysteria that exists on the issue of bird flu, we certainly hope, in the light of today's news, that Hawthorn finds Britain's contingency plans to be up to scratch.