Bird flu: Chief vet stresses importance of biosecurity as third bird tests positive

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) today confirmed that a second wild greylag goose, found in Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh, has tested positive for H5N6 Avian Influenza.

The second goose, like the first, was reported to DAERA as part of its dead wild bird surveillance programme.

It’s the third bird to test positive with the disease in Northern Ireland this year; the first being a buzzard in Co. Antrim.

All three were submitted for testing at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), where testing has indicated avian influenza subtype H5N6.

‘Remain vigilant and review biosecurity’

The chief veterinary officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Robert Huey, said: “This latest case in a wild bird further emphasises the requirement for all bird keepers to remain vigilant and to critically review their biosecurity measure.

“For example, feeding and watering birds under cover to help reduce the risk of their poultry coming in contact with wild birds. It is important that flock keepers report early any suspicions of disease.

“While it is not unexpected to find another case of avian flu in a wild bird in close proximity to the confirmed case last week, and the risk to poultry remains low, it is important that flock keepers remain vigilant and it is essential that we take the necessary steps to protect our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.

“I continue to encourage strongly all bird keepers to register their flocks. This will ensure they receive the latest information from the Department and also allow them to be contacted in an avian disease outbreak enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

“I would also encourage bird keepers to subscribe to the Avian Influenza text service by simply texting: ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.”

General bird flu advice

Bird keepers visiting waterfowl sites such as lakes and ponds should also take measures to prevent disease spread to backyard flocks through contamination of footwear with wild bird faeces.

Advice from the Public Health Agency is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low. However, the public are advised to take appropriate biosecurity precautions before touching or picking up birds that are dead, or appear to be sick or dying. Further advice can be found on the DAERA website.

The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that Avian Influenza does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the DAERA helpline on: 0300-200-7840.