Thursday 21 March 2019

Huge tanks of gas kept ready for bird flu cull

Edel Kennedy

TWO road tankers full of gas are on permanent standby to kill thousands of birds if the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu is found here.

However the Department of Agriculture has declined to give the cost of having the tankers on continuous standby, stating it was "commercially sensitive information".

The contract with the commercial gas company allows for the immediate slaughter of infected poultry by gassing the birds with CO2 in the event of an outbreak. It has been in place since earlier this year.

"Ireland, along with all the other EU member states is obliged as part of the early warning system of avian influenza to carry out annual surveillance on wild birds and the poultry population," a department spokeswoman said.

"This is ongoing," she added.

"The avian flu helpline number remains open as an additional service operated by Animal Health Division," she explained.

No costing is available for the helpline, as it is run along with the other functions of the division.

Precautionary measures were introduced last month after a number of outbreaks of the flu in England.

In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (DARD), the department introduced a number of precautionary measures and placed a ban on the participation of birds from Britain at bird shows and gatherings in Ireland.

Outbreak

Authorities on both sides of the Border have pledged to take an 'all island' approach should any outbreak occur.

The Garda, Department of Defence and the Civil Defence also remain on standby should outbreak concerns arise.

In recent months, the department received 430 grant applications from commercial poultry flock owners for the installation of water chlorination facilities. If approved, the facilities will significantly reduce the likelihood of the introduction of the virus into commercial poultry houses through infected water.

The current migratory season is in full swing, making this the top risk period for the potential arrival of the deadly H5N1 strain.

There are a total of 9,221 bird holdings across the country, ranging from commercial poultry farms to backyard hen houses. All have now been registered and mapped to ensure speed of communication and reaction if the deadly flu strikes here.

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