Irish farmers 'prepared for bird flu threat'

Irish farmers 'prepared for bird flu threat'

Irish farmers say they are well prepared for the threat from bird flu.

The alert has been heightened after the Department of Agriculture confirmed the H5N8 strain of avian flu has been identified in a wild duck in Co Wexford.

The Irish Farmers Association said that Irish poultry farmers have some of the highest bio-security standards in the world.

Nigel Renehen, chairman of the IFA's Poultry Committee, welcomed the Government's order to keep all commercial flocks inside.

"The freerange sector and the organic sector were the two sectors I was the most afraid of, because of the fact that the bird are out on the range," he said.

"Now the fact that we have an order, that I was calling for for quite a while, in place that the birds will not be on the range and they will be kept indoors is a very positive measure.

"So we have reduced the risk quite dramatically by doing that one simple measure."

The bird was found alive but unable to fly on December 28.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said although the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with the virus have been reported worldwide.

The risk to humans has therefore been rated as very low.

The department said the detection was not unexpected, as there had been infections of a "highly pathogenic" variant detected in Great Britain in the last two weeks.

Last week Agriculture Minister Michael Creed introduced regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring the compulsory housing of poultry as a result of the increased threat.

Further tests are being carried out to determine whether the virus found in Ireland is the same highly pathogenic strain that is currently present in Great Britain and mainland Europe.

The results of the tests will not be available until the middle of next week.

A department spokesman said: "The Department reiterates that strict bio-security measures are necessary to prevent the introduction of avian influenza into poultry and captive bird flocks.

"Flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office."

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