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Minister Coughlan updates Avian 'Flu regulations

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., confirmed today that she had signed three new Regulations which will provide the most up-to-date basis for actions to be taken in the event of a case of avian 'flu in wild birds or an outbreak in poultry.

The new Regulations give effect in Irish law to three pieces of EU legislation, two of which replace existing legislation introduced earlier in the year while the third gives effect to a European Council Directive.

  • The Minister said that the Regulations implementing the Directive, update and extend the provisions of a 1992 Directive setting down Community measures for the control of avian influenza in the light of scientific knowledge, new laboratory tests, vaccines and the lessons learned during recent outbreaks of this disease in the Community and third countries. They provide for the establishment of protection and surveillance zones in the event of a suspect or confirmed outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Ireland and the measures to be applied in those zones and at a range of locations where outbreaks are suspected or confirmed. They also cover the measures to be taken in the event of an outbreak of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI), something not previously covered by Irish legislation. This is a comprehensive piece of legislation that was not required to be transposed into Irish law until July 2007.
  • The second Regulations replace and update others signed earlier this year setting down measures to be applied in the event of a case of avian influenza in a wild bird in Ireland. These include the establishment of control and monitoring areas and movement controls having regard to the risk involved.
  • The third set of Regulations also update poultry Regulations which were adopted earlier this year. They complement the first mentioned Regulations and provide for the establishment of high and low risk areas around a suspect or confirmed outbreak of avian influenza and the control measures to be applied in these areas in the event of such an outbreak.

Minister Coughlan described the early transposition of the Directive in particular as being indicative of her determination to maintain a proactive approach and reflected her commitment to being fully prepared to deal with any eventuality which a case or outbreak of avian 'flu might bring. It also reflects the increased risk associated with the autumn/winter migratory season which is now underway.

The Minister complimented the European Commission in particular for revising aspects of the legislation in relation to wild birds in the light of Member States' experiences last winter and spring and said that "the new measures are sensible and will leave a degree of discretion to Member States in that many of the decisions are to be taken on a risk-assessment basis while, at the same time, complying with the overall principles of disease control and eradication".

Minister Coughlan said that her Department was continuing to ensure that it was fully prepared and equipped to deal with any case or outbreak and would further refine its preparedness along with other parties to reflect the new legislation. The Minister said that there were currently no outbreaks of avian 'flu in the EU and the immediate risk to Ireland was therefore low. Nonetheless, the Department was maintaining its vigilant approach.

The Minister went on to say that her Department would be re-issuing detailed advice to poultry farmers over the next few weeks. In the meantime, she reminded those farmers of the necessity of maintaining high standards of biosecurity and referred them to the information made available by her Department over the past year, all of which is available on the Department's website

Note for editors

The three pieces of legislation, concerning protection measures in relation to Avian Influenza, which have been transposed by the newly signed Regulations are:

(1) The European Communities (Protection measures in relation to avian influenza in poultry and other captive birds) Regulations 2006 transpose European Council Directive 2005/94/EC.
(2) The European Communities (Protection measures in relation to highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N1 in wild birds) (No.2) Regulations 2006 transpose Commission Decision 2006/563/EC.
(3) The European Communities (Protection measures in relation to highly pathogenic avian influenza of the subtype H5N1 in poultry) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 transpose Commission Decision 2006/415/EC.

Date Released: 18 September 2006