Experts on avian flu tonight insisted sufficient measures had been put in place to combat the threat of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.
After considering a series of contingency measures with the Avian Influenza Expert Advisory Group, Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan said it was too soon to begin the compulsory housing of poultry.
But Professor Michael Monaghan of UCD, chair of the advisory committee which met for the first time in Dublin today, said the situation would be kept under continuous review.
Fears that the killer disease would keep spreading grew tonight as Austria became the latest state to confirm they found the bird flu virus in a chicken which died in an animal sanctuary in Graz.
And the European Commission has taken the unprecedented step of approving French and Dutch plans to vaccinate millions of their poultry against bird flu.
But Mrs Coughlan has insisted Ireland has plans in place to combat the virus.
Following reports which suggested the Department of Agriculture hotline for reporting suspected bird flu cases was not manned at weekends or after 9pm during the week, the minister said the service would be enhanced.
Ms Coughlan confirmed that a new low-call number was being provided with immediate effect – 1890 252 283.
She said anyone who wanted to report dead birds could contact this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The minister noted the helpline would sit alongside the existing Head Office reporting number 01 6072000 for animal disease incidences.
And she said An Garda Siochana, the Health Services Executive and local authorities were being reminded that calls from members of the public about dead birds should be redirected to the helpline.
Mrs Coughlan also revealed details of the collection and testing of dead birds by Agriculture officials.
She said it was designed to act as a surveillance/early warning system.
The Department of Agriculture said that the collection of dead birds would be limited to species more likely to be carriers of the H5N1 virus and that it was not considered necessary for the Department to be involved in the recovery and testing of all dead birds.
“It is a much more efficient use of physical and laboratory resources to concentrate on those species such as water fowl which are more likely carriers of the virus,” the minister said.
A national campaign is to be launched through advice/information notices in the national newspapers, of the types of birds most at risk and advising the public what to do in the event that they come in contact with dead birds in the wild.
The Avian Influenza Expert Advisory Group is made up of Olivia Crowe, Birdwatch Ireland, Dr Paddy Rogan, Chief Veterinary Officer, UCD Professor Bill Hall, Director of Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases, Dr Patrick Wall, UCD Professor of Public Health, Donal McLoone, MRCVS, John Wilson, Parks and Wildlife Service, PJ McArdle, Poultry Expert, and Department officials Dr Michael Gunn and Dermot A Ryan.