You are viewing the content for Friday 24 February 2006

Bird flu helpline will operate 24/7

By Ray Ryan, Agribusiness Correspondent
A NEW low-call helpline to facilitate the public in relation to avian influenza has been provided by the Department of Agriculture.

Minister Mary Coughlan said 1890 252 283 is an enhancement of the department’s helpline facility, which has been operating for some months.

"People who want to report dead birds will be able to contact this number 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.

Ms Coughlan said the helpline is in addition to the existing facility where the department’s head office is contactable 24 hours a day for reporting of animal disease incidences.

She said agencies, including the gardaí, the Health Services Executive and local authorities, are being reminded about what to do with calls from the public about dead birds. These calls should be redirected either to the department’s local office network or to the low-call helpline number.

Ms Coughlan said the department’s function in collecting and testing dead birds is to operate a surveillance/early warning system.

Accordingly, the collection of dead birds would be limited to those species which are likely to be carriers of the H5N1 virus.

The department will be advising the public of the types of birds on which they will be concentrating their attention. It will also be advising the public on what they should do in the event they come in contact with dead birds in the wild.

Department statistics have, meanwhile, revealed that tests conducted on some 650 birds for avian flu since last July were all negative.