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Minister Coughlan Responds to Low Pathogenic Avian 'Flu Outbreak in Wales

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan, today confirmed an immediate ban on the importation of birds, other than racing pigeons and other captive poultry, from Great Britain to participate in bird gatherings and shows in Ireland. This precautionary measure is being introduced in response to the detection of low pathogenic avian 'flu in a small poultry flock in North Wales. A similar measure is being introduced in Northern Ireland and reflects the all-island approach which has been consistently adopted in response to any increased threat associated with avian 'flu'.

The ban, which does not include racing pigeons, does not apply to birds from Northern Ireland and birds from either side of the border are free to participate in shows and gatherings anywhere on the island.

The decision to introduce the ban follows a meeting of the Management Committee of her Department's National Disease Control Centre, which took place yesterday in response to the confirmed outbreak of H7N2 low pathogenic avian 'flu in poultry on a non-commercial holding in Corwen, Conwy, North Wales.

The Minister said that she had accepted a recommendation from the Management Committee, which was made following consultations with the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in Britain and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland. The ban will be maintained pending the results of DEFRA's epidemiological investigation and tracing exercise.

Departmental officials have been in contact with colleagues in Cardiff and Belfast and, based on the information received, including the statement from the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, the Management Committee concluded that a ban on the importation of birds for shows and gatherings was a proportionate response which was also consistent with the approach taken in response to the outbreak of H5N1 avian 'flu in Suffolk in February.

Minister Coughlan reiterated her confidence in her Department's contingency plans and said that her Department would "continue to monitor closely the situation in Wales and would remain in close contact with colleagues in GB and especially Northern Ireland".

Minister Coughlan added that she and her officials "would study carefully the outcome of the Welsh authorities' epidemiological investigation into the source of this outbreak".

The Department has in place a wild bird surveillance programme which is targeting priority areas that are regarded as being at the greatest risk of the introduction of avian 'flu, taking account of a number of specified criteria.

The Minister concluded by urging flockowners to continue to take appropriate biosecurity measures to protect their flocks. In light of the incident in Wales, the Minister also advised anybody who may have purchased poultry at Chelford Market in Cheshire on 7 May to contact her Department on the dedicated helpline 1890 252283.

25 May, 2007

Date Released: 25 May 2007