Key information on Avian Influenza

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Ulster Farmers’ Union poultry Chairman, Tom Forgrave, is urging poultry keepers to ensure they are prepared to deal with the threat of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza.

Whether your poultry flock is large or small, poultry keepers are being urged to ensure that all biosecurity measures are in place and are as robust as possible to protect the health of the flock.

“Given the spread of the disease in wild birds, flock owners must continue to comply with the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which requires that all poultry and captive birds in Northern Ireland be kept indoors, or otherwise kept separate from wild birds,” he said.

This action has been taken because of the increased risk of avian influenza (bird flu) in the UK and Ireland. During the autumn of 2016 and January 2017, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N8 have been found in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe including GB and Ireland.

Poultry keepers are well-briefed on biosecurity measures and good practice regarding the threat of HPAI but given the continued spread of this disease in the wild bird population, vigilance must be heightened.

The advice is:

o Bird keepers should be on alert for any signs of the disease.

o If any suspect birds show signs of avian influenza you should immediately contact your own vet or DAERA divisional vets.

o All poultry farmers should plan now, how they would implement emergency procedures should they have to do so. This would allow birds to be housed and separated if there is any cause for concern.

o Ensure that they feed and water birds indoors wherever possible to avoid attracting wild birds onto their premises

o Review their biosecurity protocols

o Plan ahead for the possibility of other measures being brought in

o Be vigilant.

Clinical signs:

It is important to be able to recognise the symptoms of Avian Influenza. Typically the disease presents suddenly with affected flocks showing:

o high mortality rates

o sudden death

o cyanosis and oedema of the comb and wattles

o dullness

o unwilling to move

o loss of appetite

o respiratory distress

o diarrhoea/sneezing/coughing

o drop in egg production

o nervous signs.

Birds may often die without any signs of disease being apparent. However, there can be considerable variation in the clinical signs and severity of the disease.

Both DAERA and the UFU are committed to doing all that is necessary to keep the disease out of Northern Ireland, and are working closely with DEFRA in England to monitor wild bird and other risks. For further information visit www.daera-ni.gov.uk/ Visit also the departments AI update page also for more information: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/avian-influenza-ai