FEARS are growing Fermanagh’s bird keepers and poultry farmers could be in for another winter of restrictions as a highly contagious form of the disease spreads across Ireland and the UK.
As reported in last week’s Herald, the strain of bird flu known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 wsa detected two weeks ago at a swan rescue centre in Worcestershire. Since then, the disease has been confirmed in a peregrine falcon in Co Galway, as well as in captive birds in three locations in England, Scotland and Wales, and 15 cases in wild birds across Britain.
As such, the bird flu threat level across the water has been raised to high and an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) has been introduced in Britain legally requiring anyone who keeps birds, whether for farming or pets, to take a range of biosecurity measures. This does not currently include a housing requirment, like that seen across the UK last winter, however this is being kept under continuous review.
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has now added to the plea issued by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey last week, urging bird owners to take all precautions possible to help curb the spread to avoid restrictions and large-scale culls.
“We find ourselves in a similar position to the one we were in last December, with the increasing number of avian influenza findings, and the introduction of an AIPZ in GB,” said Minister Poots.
“The recent positive finding of H5N1 in a wild bird in the Republic of Ireland strongly suggests that the disease may already be present in NI and it is more critical than ever that we protect our poultry industry and international trade.
“This is not just something for large commercial premises to be concerned about. If you keep a small flock of poultry or ‘captive birds’, you have an important role to play in preventing further disease outbreaks. If avian influenza were to enter any flock, including backyard or hobby flocks, it could have a devastating effect on the poultry industry and could significantly impact international trade.”
Minister Poots said “even if you just keep one bird” to take immediate action to improve biosecutiry to protect the local poultry economy.
“If the disease was to enter our NI flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy. Excellent biosecurity remains the best protection against an incursion of avian influenza into poultry flocks,” he said.
Bird owners are urged to know the signs of the disease, which is of very low risk to humans, and t stay vigilant. You can sign up for a subscriptoin text service by texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300. If you suspect signs of bird flu, report it immediately by calling DAREA on 0300 2007840.
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