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Poultry owners urged to remain vigilant as avian flu likely 'well established' in wild birds


The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said that avian influenza is now likely well established in wild bird populations across the country and has urged flock owners to remain vigilant and keep their poultry housed.

In December, the Department of Agriculture announced regulations requiring flock keepers to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession or under their control in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access, and to apply specific bio-security measures.

This followed the confirmation of H5N8 in a wild bird in Wales, and is the first time such action has been taken by this Department.

The requirement to keep birds confined remains in place until further notice but it will be kept under review. It is likely that this will be for a maximum of 12 weeks, in order to prevent any impact on the marketing status for free-range and organic reared poultry.

Bird gatherings (shows, exhibitions and races) are permitted under general licence, subject to prior notification and certain bio security conditions.

Subsequent to the confirmation of avian influenza subtype H5N8 in wild birds in Wexford last December, the disease has been confirmed in wild birds in Galway and in Tipperary earlier this month.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said that these cases serve to confirm that infection in wild birds is likely well established in Ireland and that poultry flocks across the country are at risk from introduction of the virus.

“With this developing knowledge, I would re-emphasise the requirement to confine poultry and other birds, and to apply strict bio-security measures to prevent the introduction of avian influenza. 

“Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office,” he said.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported world-wide and therefore risk to humans is considered to be very low.

The Minister said the Department continues to review all aspects of its contingency arrangements in light of any emerging veterinary or scientific information and will take measures that are considered appropriate, if necessary.

Meanwhile, countries have been urged to continue to closely monitor for Bird flu outbreaks and report cases promptly by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Margaret Chan told the agency’s Executive Board that since November of last year, nearly 40 countries have reported fresh outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds.

“The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert.

"We cannot afford to miss the early signals," she said.

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