Avian influenza – it’s a tale of three regions

Decisions taken over the past few days will see Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland impacted differently by the avian influenza control measures taken in the three regions.

For Northern Ireland, it’s a case of continuing restrictions while in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland the decision has been taken to remove the current measures.

In Northern Ireland, the Avian Influenza protection zone is being extended until May 31, 2017, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed. 

Ahead of the implementation of the new prevention zone today (Monday, May 1), Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert J Huey is reminding all bird keepers to remain vigilant.

“The risk of infection from wild birds is decreasing and is expected to continue to decrease in the coming weeks. The decision to extend the prevention zone until the end of May has been made following a recent veterinary risk assessment, which concluded that there is still a risk of avian influenza to poultry through direct or indirect contact with wild birds, although the risk has decreased,” he said.    

“I would continue, therefore, to strongly encourage all bird keepers to maintain compliance with the additional biosecurity mitigation measures previously introduced on March 17. The main critical control points are the prevention of fomite spread into poultry premises and the need to stop direct and indirect contact between wild birds and domestic poultry.”

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) Poultry Chairman, Tom Forgrave, said that, all along, the industry has been guided by the advice of DAERA veterinary officials.

“The most important thing is to protect the industry from avian flu,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government announced that its avian influenza prevention zone was lifted yesterday (April 30). Penny Middleton, Poultry Policy and Animal Health and Welfare Policy Manager for National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, added her comments to the mix.

NFU Scotland welcomes the news that the latest veterinary risk assessment has concluded that the risk of AI (avian influenza) incursion into poultry in Scotland has reduced to ‘low’, allowing the lifting of the prevention zone on April 30.

“This has been a testing time for the Scottish poultry industry and its response and cooperation in the face of such heightened risk is to be applauded,” she said.

“Obviously whilst the risk has reduced it has not disappeared completely and keepers need to stay focussed on biosecurity – maintaining measures to minimise contact between the flock and wild birds and to minimise any spread of potential infection. The level of threat this winter has been unprecedented but could be the start of a recurring pattern.”