Bird Flu Control Measures To Be Introduced Across Ireland

In the last fortnight five outbreaks of the highly-pathogenic strain H5N1 have been confirmed in wild birds in Ireland.

Stringent biosecurity measures for birds and poultry are set to come into effect across the island from Wednesday, November 17, in a bid to stop Avian influenza from spreading into Irish commercial poultry flocks.

The virus, which is known colloquially as ‘bird flu’, has the potential to wipe out whole flocks within 48 hours and circulates naturally in wild birds in continental Europe.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said the measures also include a ban on the assembly of birds.

“This initiative is being taken following confirmation of HPAI H5N1 in wild birds in a number of counties since early November. These wild bird findings confirm that the avian influenza virus is currently circulating widely in the wild bird population in Ireland. This reservoir of infection in wildlife poses a risk to our poultry flocks and industry. There have not been any outbreaks in poultry flocks at this time.

“These regulations require specific biosecurity measures to be implemented by the keepers of all poultry (and other captive bird) flocks, irrespective of size, to help mitigate the risk of infection of their poultry from the virus and the implementation of additional enhanced biosecurity measures by flock-owners in respect of flocks of 500 birds or more,” he said.

Backyard and free-range flocks are particularly vulnerable to bird flu as they spend time outdoors, with October to April considered the high-risk period for the virus as it can be carried to the island during migration.

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease, which means anyone who suspects an animal to be affected must, by law, report it to the Department of Agriculture.

In the last fortnight, five outbreaks of the highly-pathogenic strain H5N1 have been confirmed in wild birds in Ireland, including cases in Roscommon, Offaly, Donegal, Galway and Kerry.

A warning sign pictured outside a commercial turkey fattening farm in North Yorkshire where Avian influenza was confirmed last year. Pic. Ian Forsyth-Getty Images.

The term ‘highly pathogenic’, is used to denote a version of the virus that spreads very quickly, causing serious disease with the potential to wipe out whole flocks of most poultry species.

However, while the virus can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that human infection is extremely rare, and properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, remain safe to eat.

Outbreaks have also been detected in captive birds and poultry flocks in five different locations in Britain. 

The detection of highly pathogenic strains of the virus in commercial poultry flocks can also have implications for international trade. For example, because H5N1 has now been confirmed in poultry in Britain, the UK is no longer considered free from Avian influenza under the World Organisation for Animal Health rules.

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Declared In Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said it was likely the virus was already present in birds in the region, as he declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will come into effect from midnight on November 17.

The move places a legal requirement on all bird keepers in Northern Ireland to follow strict biosecurity measures and applies to pet birds, backyard and hobby flocks, as well as commercial flocks.

Minister Poots said: “The recent positive findings of H5N1 in wild birds in the Republic of Ireland suggest that the disease may already be present here in Northern Ireland. 

“I have, therefore, taken the decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone from midnight November 17 based on sound expert advice and in consultation with industry.

“This is a necessary precautionary step that requires all bird keepers to take appropriate action to review and enhance the measures to protect their birds from this highly infectious disease.” 

Northern Ireland chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey added: “This introduction of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone is necessary to help prevent any contact that wild birds might otherwise have with poultry or other captive birds. 

“It reduces the risk of contamination from the virus to food and water provided to poultry and other captive birds, therefore, reducing the opportunity for the disease to spread between premises.”

“I am urging all flock keepers, even if you keep just one bird, to take action now to improve biosecurity in order to prevent an incursion of the disease into our poultry flock. If Avian influenza were to enter our Northern Ireland flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.”

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Rachel Martin – 15/11/2021)

Case Of Bird Flu Confirmed In White-Tailed Sea Eagle In Kerry

The Department also confirmed that wild birds in Donegal and Offaly have also been confirmed positive for H5N1 today, including both mute swans and whooper swans and wild geese

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed a case of bird flu in Co Kerry.

The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) was confirmed in a white-tailed sea eagle near Tarbert.

The eagle was submitted to the Veterinary Laboratory in Limerick as part of the Department’s wild bird Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance programme.

The Department also confirmed that wild birds in Donegal and Offaly have also been confirmed positive for H5N1 today, including both mute swans and whooper swans and wild geese.

One Minister for State described the confirmations as “very concerning”.

Case Of Bird Flu Confirmed In White-Tailed Sea Eagle In Kerry.

Last week, a strain of the virus was detected in a peregrine falcon in Co Galway.

The Minister for Agriculture said it is “very unfortunate that this case has been detected in such a rare bird”.

However, Charlie McConalogue commended the Department’s wild bird AI surveillance programme.

“It is important that we remain vigilant, and I would also urge that flock owners should also be watchful. We should do everything that we can to ensure that potentially-infected wild birds do not have contact with domestic flocks.” 

Members of the public have been urged not to handle any dead birds but to contact the Department of Agriculture or the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan added: “There is the immediate issue of the direct impacts on birds generally, and also, of course, there may be issues arising that impact on birds of conservation concern, including those being re-introduced to the wild under projects such as the flagship White-Tailed Sea Eagle Re-Introduction Project.”

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N1 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported worldwide and therefore consider the risk to humans to be very low.

Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The Department added that the additional findings of H5N1 in wild birds highlights the risk of introduction of avian influenza to the poultry sector.

It “remains in close contact with industry stakeholders and reiterates that strict bio-security measures are necessary to prevent the introduction of avian influenza into poultry and captive bird flocks,” a statement revealed.

“Flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office.”

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Steve Neville – 11/11/2021)

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