Protecting flocks from disease

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The Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, Mr Robert Huey, has said effective biosecurity measures by bird keepers are vital in protecting Northern Ireland against the introduction of Avian Influenza, particularly during the higher risk autumn period.

He said: “Biosecurity is at the forefront of our defence against disease and with the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in Yorkshire all flock owners, commercial and back-yard poultry enthusiasts, should be vigilant and should be aware of, and practising good biosecurity, particularly during the higher risk Autumn period, so that the risk of disease occurring, or spreading, is minimised. Taking the right measures at all times can help protect your birds, your business, the industry and the community.

“One method in which Avian Influenza can be spread to domestic birds is through contact with infected wild birds and this is one possible source of the H5N8 avian flu outbreak in East Yorkshire. Contact may be direct or indirect through faecal contamination of anything that may come into contact with domestic birds, such as feed, water, utensils or clothing. The risk of disease spread can therefore be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds.

“I would advise flock owners to:

r Keep birds separate from wild birds, vermin and other animals.

r Feed and water birds indoors to avoid contamination by wild birds or other animals

r Keep premises neat and tidy and control vermin

r Be vigilant when purchasing new stock. Use reputable sources and isolate new birds or birds you bring back to your premises, for example, from shows.

“Bird keepers should contact their private veterinary practitioner if they detect signs of disease in their birds. Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease and must be reported as soon as possible to the local Divisional Veterinary Office and any unusual mortalities of wild birds can be reported to DARD via the Helpline number on 0300 2007840.

“Further detailed guidance is available on the DARD website: (http://www.dardni.gov.uk/avian-influenza) as well as in the ‘Guidance for housing birds’ document, which can be obtained from http://www.dardni.gov.uk/guidance-housing-birds.pdf. The guidance gives practical advice on how to separate domestic and wild birds as well as biosecurity advice for flock owners.”