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Avian flu confirmed in white-tailed sea eagle found dead in Kerry

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One of the white-tailed sea eagles released in Ireland in recent years. Picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

One of the white-tailed sea eagles released in Ireland in recent years. Picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

One of the white-tailed sea eagles released in Ireland in recent years. Picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

A case of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu has been detected in an eagle in Co Kerry.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed the disease today in a white-tailed sea eagle near Tarbert.

The white-tailed sea eagle was submitted to the veterinary laboratory in Co Limerick as part of the Department’s wild bird Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance programme.

The once extinct eagles have been successfully brought back to Ireland thanks to co-operation with authorities in Norway in recent years.

This highly pathogenic strain was also detected last week in a peregrine falcon in Co Galway.

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

The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue urged flock owners to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flock.

“It is very unfortunate that this case has been detected in such a rare bird, but I would like to commend the work of my 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,” he said.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the confirmed cases are “very concerning”.

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“These confirmations of Avian Influenza are very concerning. 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 National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will continue to support Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine colleagues in monitoring and addressing this evolving situation,” he said.

He added: “In the meantime, I would ask members of the public not to handle any dead birds. Instead, they should contact local Department of Agriculture or NPWS offices.”

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 world-wide and therefore consider the risk to humans to be very low.

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


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