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Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine reminds people of the risk of Avian Influenza (AI) to the poultry sector in Ireland

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine would like to remind people of the risk that Avian Influenza (AI) poses to the poultry sector in Ireland, following the notification of an outbreak of Low Pathogenic AI in England and highlight what measures poultry keepers can take to reduce the risk of introducing of this serious disease into Ireland.

The Department urge all poultry owners to maintain vigilance during the high-risk period. The high-risk period for avian influenza in Ireland is from October onwards due to the arrival of migratory wild birds. The potential for disease transmission and environmental contamination is increased where they mix with resident wild birds. It is very important for poultry keepers to maintain vigilance in relation to biosecurity, prevent contact with wild birds and report any suspicious clinical signs to their veterinary practitioner or the Department.

An LPAI outbreak of the H5 strain was confirmed in the UK yesterday (10th of December) in a flock of 27,000 commercial chickens in Suffolk. All the birds are being humanely culled and a 1km restriction zone was put in place around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Whilst low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is a less serious strain of H5 avian influenza, it is significant in that it can mutate into highly pathogenic AI. LPAI can cause mild breathing problems but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The last confirmed case of LPAI in the UK was in Dunfermline in January 2016.

The number of outbreaks of notifiable avian influenza in Europe during 2019 to date has been small compared to recent years, however the risk remains. In early October there was an outbreak of H5 LPAI in a flock of free ranging mallard ducks in Central France which was detected as part of the national avian influenza surveillance programme.

 

Notes to editors

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease affecting food producing birds, pet birds and wild birds. The virus has also been found in pigs, cats and dogs. It is caused by a Type A influenza virus. There are two types of avian influenza virus. These are called low pathogenic (LPAI) and highly pathogenic (HPAI), depending on the severity of the disease that they cause in birds.

What is the risk to the public?

Avian influenza viruses can occasionally affect humans - usually after close contact with infected poultry.

Where is the disease found?

Avian influenza occurs worldwide and different strains are more prevalent in certain areas.

How is the disease transmitted and spread?

Wild birds are considered the main source of introduction of disease into poultry, shedding virus in respiratory secretions and faeces. Subsequent contamination of water, feed and equipment allows entry of the virus into poultry flocks. Once the disease is in poultry, it may be spread between flocks via the movement of people, vehicles and equipment.

From October onwards represents the high-risk period for avian influenza in Ireland because migratory wild birds, the natural hosts of many avian influenza viruses, start to arrive in large numbers to overwinter.

Once here, the birds congregate on Ireland’s many wetland areas where they mix with resident wild bird species with the potential for both transmission of disease to resident birds and contamination of the environment. In addition, the colder weather and decreasing daylight hours from this point onwards means that the influenza virus can potentially survive for extended periods of time in the environment also.

DAFM has a wide variety of biosecurity resources for avian influenza- please see: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/biosecurityadvice/

To register a poultry flock please see:

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/poultryregistration/

RVO contact details

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/contact/

List of target species of wild birds for AI surveillance

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/animalhealthwelfare/diseasecontrols/avia ninfluenzabirdflu/informationonwildbirds/ListOfWildBirdSpeciesForTargetedAIsurveillance1 70118.pdf

European Commission

https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/animal-diseases/control-measures/avian-influenza_en

 

ENDS

Date Released: 11 December 2019