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Dublin: 7°C Saturday 16 January 2021

Enhanced measures put in place to keep bird flu out of flocks

Risk to humans from the virus is considered very low.

File image of birds flying in Dublin.
File image of birds flying in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

THE DEPARTMENT OF Agriculture has announced new measures put in place as precautions against bird flu currently circulating among wild birds in Ireland and abroad.

Bird flu has been found among wild birds in Cork, Limerick, Mayo and Monaghan since early November.

The Department of Agriculture said this circulation of the flu “poses a risk to our poultry flocks and industry”. 

As a result, a series of new measures have been put in place to mitigate the risk, including a requirement for flock keepers to apply certain bio-security measures for poultry and other captive birds.

Bio-security measures are those aimed at preventing the spread of harmful organisms (like viruses) to plants and animals. 

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said this subtype of the flu can cause serious disease in birds, but there have been no human infections of this virus reported worldwide.

As a result, risk to humans is considered to be very low but people are still advised not to handle sick or dead wild birds. These should be reported to the Regional Veterinary Office. 

A ban has also been put into place on the assembly of birds. The new regulations were brought in under the 2013 Animal Health and Welfare Act. 

Specific bio-security measures must be implemented by the keepers of all poultry and other captive bird flocks no matter what size, and some additional measures must be implemented in flocks of 500+ birds.

The H8N8 subtype of bird flu has been behind outbreaks in wild birds and poultry in several EU countries and Britain since late October. 

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The Department of Agriculture said there has also been cases reported among wild birds in Northern Ireland. 

Poultry flock owners are advised to remain vigilant for signs of the disease and to report any suspicions to their nearest Department Regional Veterinary Office.

Symptoms include a swollen head, discoloration of the neck and throat, loss of apetite and respiratory distress. 

The department said it is closely monitoring the situation.

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