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Minister comments on Avian Flu in Suffolk, England

12 November, 2007

Sinn Féin Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has assured the poultry sector and bird keepers here that her department is in close contact with DEFRA in light of the confirmation of an outbreak of Avian Flu in Suffolk, England.

Speaking this evening, Minister Gildernew said:

"Tests so far indicate that this is the H5 avian virus, but the strain has not been identified. As more information becomes available, I stand ready to take action to protect our position here. I am not, at the minute, requiring birds to be housed, but I will keep this under review."

Emphasising the importance of good biosecurity, Ms Gildernew said:

"It is important that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and observe high levels of bio-security, so that together we can keep the risk to a minimum. Keepers should contact their private veterinary practitioner if they detect signs of disease."

DARD is continuing its programme of surveillance of wild birds in the North. To date no highly pathogenic Avian Flu virus has been isolated here.

The Department has an Avian Flu contingency plan in place, which would be invoked in the event of an outbreak here. DARD will keep the situation closely under review in conjunction with stakeholders and will also continue to work closely with DEFRA and the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin.


There is no reason for public health concern. Avian influenza is a disease of birds, and whilst it can pass very rarely and with difficulty to humans, this requires extremely close contact with infected birds, particularly faeces.

Advice from the Food Standards Agency remains that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Guidance for members of the public on what they should do if they find a dead wild bird is available on the DARD website.

Guidance to help bird keepers find practical ways of minimising contact with wild birds is available in the leaflet 'Preparing for Avian Influenza - Separating flocks from Wild Birds' issued in June 2006. Information is also available on the DARD website.

One way Avian Influenza can be spread to domestic birds is through contact with infected wild birds. Contact may be direct or indirect through faecal contamination of anything that may come into contact with domestic birds such as feed, water, utensils or clothing. The risk of disease spread can therefore be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds.

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