Remaining vigilant to avian influenza

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Effective biosecurity measures by bird keepers are vital in protecting Northern Ireland against the threat of avian influenza (AI).

That is the message from Dr. Perpetua McNamee, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to all bird keepers.

Dr McNamee said: “With autumn upon us and winter quickly approaching, wild birds are starting their migratory cycle in preparation for winter. Wild birds increase the risk of potentially harmful diseases, one of which is AI, being spread through contact with domestic birds. I therefore urge bird keepers, especially those with free range systems, to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of biosecurity on their premises.”

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. These measures all help to mitigate the risk of a disease outbreak in local poultry flocks.

Dr McNamee added: “All bird keepers, except those who keep caged pet birds in their home, are required to register and keep their details up to date on the DAERA Bird Register. This information allows the Department to provide keepers with up-to-date information about exotic avian disease and of the measures that can be taken to prevent spread to birds.”

Bird registration forms are available from the DAERA website: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/bird-registration-form or by contacting the DAERA Helpline and bird keepers who have not yet registered their birds should do so immediately.

Bird keepers should contact their Private Veterinary Practitioner if they detect signs of disease in their birds. AI is a notifiable disease and must be reported as soon as possible to the local DAERA Divisional Veterinary Office. Any unusual mortalities of wild birds should be reported to DAERA via the Helpline number on 0300 200 7840.

Further information on biosecurity and avian influenza can be obtained from the DAERA website at:

· www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/preparing-ai-separating-domestic-birds-wild-birds

· www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/biosecurity-and-preventing-disease-captive-birds

· www.daera-ni.gov.uk/avian-influenza