Chief Veterinary Officer urges vigilance following avian flu case in England

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Poultry farmers are being urged to be vigilant after a case of avian flu was confirmed in England.

The call came today from Robert J Huey, Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, following the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affair’s (DEFRA) confirmation of the presence of the Highly Pathogenic strain of Avian Influenza H5N8 on a turkey farm in Lincolnshire.

He said: “This confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza relates only to an infected farm near Louth, Lincolnshire, England only, but it has implications for the whole of the United Kingdom. This is the same strain that has been circulating in Europe.

“Since we became aware of the early indications of the disease in Lincolnshire, late yesterday afternoon, Departmental staff have been in direct contact with key poultry industry representatives and stakeholders in Northern Ireland to advise them of the situation and to emphasise the need for increased vigilance. While the situation is being kept under review, I would encourage bird keepers, as a precaution, to revisit, and, where necessary, improve their own biosecurity.

“As a precaution general licences for the movement of live poultry or hatching eggs from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is being suspended from 9.00a.m., Monday, 19 December 2016 and being replaced with specific licenses, for which they must apply to the Department.”

The Department is continuing to liaise closely with DEFRA and the other devolved administrations and will be reviewing the veterinary risk assessment for Northern Ireland, the results of which will inform whether any additional local control measures are required at this time. As the island of Ireland is a single epidemiological unit the Department has informed our counterparts in the Republic of Ireland of the situation and continue to work closely with them to ensure that consistent and proportionate measures to protect the island of Ireland are applied.

Advice from the Public Health England is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made it clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.