Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Charlie McConalogue TD, has announced he is introducing regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring flock keepers to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession or under their control in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access.
The Regulations, entitled Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2022, are being introduced as a precautionary measure and come into force on 7th November.
This measure is being taken against a background of the confirmation of disease in wild birds along the coast since July, increasing risk levels due to colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours as well as recent confirmation of disease in a wild bird inland.
In addition, two outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 have been reported in captive bird flocks in coastal areas of counties Dublin and Wicklow where HPAI H5N1 had been confirmed previously in wild birds.
These findings highlight an increasing risk to all poultry flocks and captive birds and by extension the poultry industry. Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have also been identified in poultry flocks in Great Britain and a number of other European countries in recent weeks.
The Department previously introduced regulations on 19th September making it mandatory for all keepers of poultry and captive birds to adopt enhanced biosecurity measures for poultry and other captive birds. It is important to note that housing is a support to biosecurity, not an alternative. Stringent biosecurity remains key to protecting poultry and captive bird flocks from disease.
Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, maintain strict biosecurity measures and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office.
The Department continues to closely monitor and assess the disease situation and is in regular contact with industry stakeholders.
It is important to note that there is no evidence of risk to humans associated with consumption of poultry or poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products, including meat and eggs are safe to eat.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N1 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, the risk of infection to humans is considered to be very low. However, members of the public are advised not to handle sick or dead wild birds and to report sick of dead wild birds to the Regional Veterinary Office or notify the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through its Avian Influenza Wild Bird App. An early warning system is in place with Birdwatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils with regard to surveillance for signs of disease in wild birds.
Notes for the Editor:
- The Housing/Precautionary Confinement Statutory Instrument is entitled Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2022
- The Bio-security Statutory Instrument introduced in September is entitled Avian Influenza (Biosecurity measures) Regulations 2022
- Further information on avian influenza can be found here: gov.ie - Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) (www.gov.ie)
- Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.
- If you suspect disease in your own flock, notify the nearest Regional Veterinary Office or ring the Avian Influenza Helpline: 016072512 (Outside of Office hours: 014928026).
- If you find dead wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey, do not handle the birds. Report the findings to the Department as above or on its Avian Influenza Wild Bird App.
- Where the Department has sufficient epidemiological surveillance information in particular geographical areas, it will not necessarily collect dead birds for testing.
- A list of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offices and their contact details is available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/contact/