The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today announced the introduction of regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring flock keepers to apply particular bio-security measures for poultry and other captive birds as a precautionary measure against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). These precautionary measures against avian influenza (bird flu) come into effect on 19 September 2022.
Since July of this year, over 80 wild birds were submitted to the Department’s laboratories for testing. Of these almost 60 positive highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases were confirmed, all are subtype H5N1. To date all but one have been seabirds, including gannets in counties Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Dublin, Donegal, Louth and Waterford, a raven in Kerry and a guillemot in Donegal. These wild bird findings confirm that the avian influenza virus is currently circulating widely in the wild bird population in Ireland. This reservoir of infection in wildlife poses a risk to our poultry flocks and industry. There have not been any outbreaks in poultry flocks, at this time. Strict biosecurity measures to prevent contact between kept and wild birds is key to protecting poultry and other captive birds.
These Regulations require specific biosecurity measures to be implemented by the keepers of all poultry (and other captive bird) flocks, irrespective of size, to help mitigate the risk of infection of their poultry from the virus and additionally in respect of flocks of 500 birds or more, the implementation of further enhanced biosecurity measures by flock-owners.
All poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, maintain strict biosecurity measures and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Regional Veterinary Office, even if they only have one or two birds.
The HPAI H5N1 subtype has been responsible for disease in wild birds and outbreaks in poultry and captive birds in a number of EU Member States and Great Britain. The Department is working closely with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland (DAERA), National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), Local Authorities, the HPSC and HSE regarding avian influenza.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the HPAI H5N1 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported in the EU and therefore risk to humans is considered to be very low. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.
Members of the public are advised not to handle sick or dead wild birds and to report any episodes of sick or dead wild birds to the Regional Veterinary Office or contact the DAFM disease helpline on 014928026. An early warning system is in place with Birdwatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils with regard to surveillance for signs of disease in wild birds.
The Department continues to closely monitor and assess the disease situation and is in regular contact with industry stakeholders.
Notes for the Editor:
- The Statutory Instruments are entitled Avian Influenza (Biosecurity measures) Regulations 2022
- Further information on avian influenza can be found here:
gov.ie - Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) (www.gov.ie)
- Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.
- If you suspect disease in your own flock, notify the nearest Regional Veterinary Office or ring the Avian Influenza Helpline: 016072512 (Outside of Office hours: 014928026).
- If you find dead wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey, do not handle the birds. Report the findings to the Department as above.
- Where the Department has sufficient epidemiological surveillance information in particular geographical areas, it will not necessarily collect dead birds for testing.
- A list of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offices and their contact details is available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/contact/