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Public advised not to handle sick or dead birds amid concerns over bird flu

The highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 has been reported in birds across Ireland.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE DEPARTMENT OF Agriculture has warned the public to avoid handling sick or dead birds. The guidance comes as cases of bird flu have been confirmed among several wild birds in a number of counties.

Last week, cases of bird flu were detected among a flock of turkeys on a farm in Co Monaghan, the Department of Agriculture confirmed.

Restriction zones were set up around the area where additional movement control and surveillance measures were put in place.

The Department of Agriculture has asked that poultry owners stay vigilant for any signs of bird flu among their flocks and if they have any suspicions regarding the presence of the disease, their concerns should be reported to their Regional Veterinary Office.

“It is important to note that there is no evidence of risk associated with consumption of poultry meat or poultry meat products,” the department said in a statement.

The highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 has already been confirmed in birds across the island and in Europe in recent weeks.

“Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have also been identified in poultry flocks in Italy, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Estonia, Czechia, Norway, Bulgaria, Belgium and the UK since early October,” the Department of Agriculture said.

The department added that while the H5N1 subtype of bird flu can cause serious illness in birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported in Europe. The risk to humans is therefore considered to be low.

Reported cases of bird flu in humans are associated with close contact with infected birds and typically occurs when handling them.

It is likely that migratory birds travelling from mainland Europe brought bird flu to Ireland.

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Earlier this month, a rare white-tailed sea eagle tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1) in Co Kerry. Wild birds in counties Offaly, Donegal and Galway also tested positive for Avian Influenza.

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced earlier this month that an ‘Avian Influenza Prevention Zone’ was to be established after a number of detections in the Republic of Ireland and in Europe.

The stringent measures apply to both commercial flock owners as well as hobbyists and pet bird owners. Similar measures have already been in place across the United Kingdom since early November.

In January, over 100,000 birds were culled in Northern Ireland following an outbreak of the avian influenza in a poultry flock in Clough, Co Down.

Contains reporting from Ian Curran.

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