Avian Influenza remains a threat to Irish poultry and wild birds
Ordinarily, the end of spring signals the end of the Bird Flu season, as wild migratory birds which are the natural hosts of avian influenza viruses return to their usual breeding sites after overwintering in Ireland.
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Unusually, this year the avian influenza H5N1 virus has persisted in wild birds in Europe throughout the summer months, leading to a need for appropriate biosecurity and heightened vigilance for spread of the disease into poultry flocks.
The disease is highly contagious amongst birds, but the risk of transmission to humans is considered low. As with all influenza A viruses, however, there is a potential for zoonotic spread (spread from animals to humans) and so it is wise to take appropriate precautions, by avoiding handling sick and dead wild birds. The disease poses no food safety risk for consumers. Properly cooked poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.
The presence of avian influenza viruses in wild birds presents a risk to both Irish wild birds and poultry as the disease continues to be reported in wild birds including sea bird species across many European countries including Ireland.
Avian influenza can be spread through direct contact between birds and the droppings of infected birds. As the virus is known to be circulating in wild birds at present, any contact between wild birds or their droppings and poultry could spread the disease.
Biosecurity is the best protection against avian influenza for Irish poultry
Poultry owners and those working with poultry should be aware when returning from areas, both at home and abroad where sick or dead wild birds have been present.
Biosecurity precautions should always be taken before coming in contact with poultry. This helps to protect poultry from many infectious diseases, not just avian influenza. Ideally, dedicated footwear and clothing, as well as disinfection points, should be used on all poultry holdings - irrespective of the number of birds on site. Clothing and footwear worn in areas where sick or dead wild birds have been present should never be brought into contact with poultry without proper cleaning and disinfection.
Biosecurity advice to help both commercial and non-commercial poultry owners protect their birds from avian influenza for can be found on www.gov.ie/birdflu
Public health advice
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine reminds members of the public not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds. If dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey are found, they should be reported through the Avian Check App or the Avian Influenza Hotline 01 607 2512 (during office hours) or 01 492 8026 (outside office hours). Pets should be kept away from sick and dead wild birds. Dogs should be kept on a leash where sick or dead wild birds are present.
Source: Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine