ASSURANCES that contingency plans are in place to cope with an outbreak of bird flu have been issued following the alleged discovery of cases near Widnes.
The Halton Council announcement follows confirmation by Defra last week of a case of bird flu in the 'Merseyside area' - the Government department is staying tight-lipped over claims that the smallholding is located in Rainhill.
Officials said the farm had connections with a market linked with an earlier outbreak and a 1km cordon was set up around the premises.
A total of 20 birds on the farm were slaughtered in the wake of the finding.
Officials are stressing that tests on two people living on the smallholding have proved negative, but a St Helens couple linked with the same market in Macclesfield have tested positive.
The department said the strain is less dangerous than the deadly HN51 strain.
A Health Protection Agency spokesman said: 'We are taking a strict precautionary approach to testing humans where they have been in close contact with known infected poultry.'
Halton Council is assuring residents that a tried and tested plan is in place.