Half of all GP surgeries across Morecambe Bay are having to re-stock with flu jabs as demand has risen in response to fears over bird flu.

Public health specialist Carole Wood said she was not aware of any practices running out of flu vaccine, but stocks were running low at some surgeries and half of them were having to get more.

Take up of the vaccine has been boosted by the avian flu scare even though the normal seasonal flu jab would offer no protection against the HN51 virus if it did mutate into a strain that could spread between people and not just birds.

The shortage means some patients in the high risk groups - those over 65 or with certain health conditions like asthma - are having to wait longer for their flu jabs.

It is unclear how long surgeries will have to wait to get fresh supplies from manufacturers.

However, Ms Wood said she was "confident" that all high risk patients would get their vaccine by Christmas.

In a further development, poultry farmers were being briefed this week on contingency plans should the HN51 virus arrive in Britain.

A national government roadshow appeared to have been hastily rolled out to give egg and poultry producers a chance to air questions over avian flu.

The first meeting was held yesterday (Thursday) at Penrith just two days after the event was announced to the media. For those that missed it, the only other northern session is at Askham Bryan College in York today (Friday). All six meetings across the UK are closed to the press.

Anyone wanting to book a place must phone in advance on 01522-521290 or email lynne.holmes@adas.co.uk.

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