Biosecurity vital to halt avian influenza

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

That is the message from the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer (DCVO) of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Dr Perpetua McNamee, to all bird keepers following outbreaks of AI in England in late 2014 and 2015.

Dr McNamee said: “As we approach autumn and with the arrival of increased numbers of migrating birds, I advise bird keepers to remain vigilant and continue to practise high standards of biosecurity on their premises. AI can be spread to domestic birds through contact with infected wild birds. 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.

“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 Divisional Veterinary Office. Any unusual mortalities of wild birds can be reported to DARD via the Helpline number on 0300 2007840.

“It is also vitally important that all bird keepers (except those who keep caged pet birds in their home) register with DARD and keep their details up to date on the DARD Bird Register. Bird keepers who have not yet registered their birds should do so immediately.”

Registration forms are available from the DARD website at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/birds-2013.htm or by contacting the DARD Helpline on 0300 200 7840.

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

· http://www.dardni.gov.uk/preparing-for-ai-.pdf

· http://www.dardni.gov.uk/biosecurity-and-preventing-disease-in-captive-birds.pdf

· http://www.dardni.gov.uk/avian-influenza

Avian Flu Symptoms for Birds include:

Sudden death without any signs, lack of coordination, purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, lack of energy and appetite, diarrhea, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks, nasal discharge, decreased egg production, coughing, sneezing