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Minister says risk of H5N1 Avian `Flu remains `low

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today said that the risk of the introduction of H5N1 avian 'flu to Ireland through wild birds remained low at present.

The Minister confirmed that following recent cases of H5N1 avian 'flu in the Czech Republic, Germany and France and at the beginning of the autumn migration season, she had asked the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and BirdWatch Ireland to undertake a risk assessment, taking account of recent developments in Europe and the early stage of the autumn migration season. Minister Coughlan expressed her appreciation for the support and ongoing ornithological expertise that both the NPWS and BirdWatch Ireland provide to her Department.

The Minister said that, having regard to the species of migratory birds considered to pose the greatest risk of introducing avian 'flu to Ireland, the risk assessment had concluded that 'most are considered to pose little or no risk of spreading H5N1 into Ireland at the present time.

The Minister said that the recent cases in Europe, after a period of relative inactivity, demonstrated the need for continued vigilance and showed that the threat of an outbreak had to continue to be taken seriously. The threat would increase as more birds arrive here during the autumn.

Minister Coughlan encouraged people to report any unusual patterns of mortality in wild birds to her Department's Avian 'Flu Helpline at 1890 252 283. She also reminded commercial poultry flockowners of the grant scheme available for the installation of water chlorination units and confirmed that she was extending the date by which the units had to be installed to qualify grant aid from August 31st to October 31st. She stressed that all applications and accompanying documentation must also be submitted by 31st October.

Finally, the Minister reiterated the need for poultry flockowners to continue to exercise the highest standards of biosecurity and referred those looking for biosecurity advice to her Department's avian 'flu website - http://www.birdflu.ie

20 August, 2007

Date Released: 20 August 2007