Turkeys at a farm in Lincolnshire have been diagnosed with a dangerous strain of bird flu a week before Christmas.

The outbreak has affected more than 5,000 birds, which are said to be infected with the H5N8 strain of the disease, at a farm near Louth, in Lincolnshire.

Last night, a 1.8-mile protection zone and a six-mile surveillance zone was in place in a bid to stop it spreading.

It is the first confirmed case of a particular strain of the disease in England.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the outbreak and said the disease has been affecting animals across Europe.

In an update on the department’s website it said: “We are taking immediate and robust action and an investigation is under way to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.”

It is the first confirmed case in England of a strain which had already been circulating in countries across Europe, from Poland to France.

Chief veterinary officer Professor Nigel Gibbens said: “Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good bio-security on their premises.”

A “prevention zone” was set up across England, Scotland and Wales last week in a bid to protect birds in the UK from becoming infected, and those with birds were advised to keep them inside.

A Public Health England spokesperson said: “Avian flu – often called bird flu – is primarily a disease of birds.

“There have never been any recorded cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to public health is considered very low. We continue to work closely with Defra during this investigation.

“Despite the risk being very low, we will offer health advice to those people who may have been exposed on the farm as a precaution.”

Defra said these measures remain in place and advised people to report any suspected cases.

An investigation is under way to determine the most likely source of the outbreak.

France, Germany and Sweden have recently confirmed outbreaks of the H5N8 strain.

The disease last struck in the UK at a poultry farm in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, in January.

But the virus was contained to a single farm and eradicated very quickly. It has been circulating among wild birds in Asia since 2010.