Irish Farmers put on alert as bird flu hits UK poultry
Irish poultry farmers have been put on high alert for avian flu after migratory birds were blamed for an outbreak in the UK.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) warned that its primary concern was not the threat from the UK outbreak, but the potential introduction of the virus to Irish flocks by wild birds.
More than one million turkeys will be brought to market across Ireland this Christmas - and an outbreak of bird flu at the current time could prove devastating for poultry farmers.
A farm in Louth, Lincolnshire is now under strict quarantine controls as UK agriculture officials attempt to prevent a spread of the H5N8 strain of the bird flu virus.
While lethal to poultry, the virus does not pose any known human health risks.
The turkeys involved are free range and could have had contact in open yards with wild or migratory birds.
More than 5,000 birds are involved. The flock will be slaughtered and a special 3km control zone has been established around the area in Lincolnshire. Birds slaughtered due to quarantine control issues cannot be sold for consumption.
It is the latest in a series of bird flu outbreaks across flocks in northern Europe over the past three months. All the outbreaks have been linked to migratory birds.
The Department of Agriculture and the IFA urged Irish farmers to be vigilant for any signs of the virus.
IFA national poultry chairman Nigel Renaghan said he was more concerned about the threat from wild birds than the UK outbreak.
"Most of the migratory birds that would have this virus would be coming from Russia," he said.
"The birds that come to Ireland are generally from Iceland. They don't have any outbreaks of the virus in Iceland at the minute. The mere fact that it is in the UK would have its own risks associated with it, so we have to be very, very careful."
The Department of Agriculture, BirdWatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils are now operating a special "early warning system" which will raise the alarm over any signs of sick or diseased wild birds.
The last confirmed case of bird flu in Ireland was in 2012 when a strain of the virus was found in a flock of pheasants in Cork. The last major case of bird flu in Ireland was in 1983, though there was a scare in 2006/2007 after outbreaks across northern Europe.
The latest outbreak in the UK involves the H5N8 strand which has no human health concerns.
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