THE bird flu restriction zones in Fermanagh has been lifted but farmers are being warned there is still no room for complacency.
Restrictions were brought in last November after the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) strain was confirmed at commercial turkey holdings near the border with Co. Monaghan.
A similar lifting of restrictions has also taken place in Co. Monaghan with the Avian Flu Surveillance Zones there being removed having been put in place after outbreaks of avian flu in two commercial flocks that led to the culling of 8000 birds.
While the news is welcome, Florencecourt farmer, David Brown – who is also the President of the Ulster Farmer’s Union – insisted the zones being removed was no green light for poultry farmers and bird keepers to open the gates and let their flocks go free.
He said: “The really important message to get across is the continued need for birds to be kept indoors and a very high level of biosecurity to be observed.
“While at a commercial level this is well understood, with backyard flocks where a homeowner keeps a few hens – or even a few hundred hens – this announcement does not mean they can open the doors and let their chickens roam free.
“Doing so will greatly increase the likelihood of avian influenza and the regrettable deaths of their flocks.
“Flock owners at all levels need to remain vigilant and practice the highest level of biosecurity.
“Avian influenza is still there in our wild birds, hence the need to protect our flocks.”
Northern Ireland’s chief vet, Robert Huey reiterated Brown’s warning and stated that there was no room for complacency as Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) measures, including mandatory housing of all birds, were still in force across the North.
He added: “The risk of an avian influenza incursion into poultry flocks in Northern Ireland is still present and I am urging all bird keepers, particularly over the holiday period, to critically review biosecurity measures, remain vigilant, and report any signs of disease to the department immediately.
“I want to stress that the AIPZ remains in place across the whole of Northern Ireland and that includes the need to adhere to those strict biosecurity measures and the mandatory housing order introduced in November for all kept and captive birds.”
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