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Gildernew outlines Avian Flu precautionary measures

13 November, 2007

In response to the confirmation of an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 Avian Flu at a turkey farm on the Suffolk/Norfolk border in England, DARD has taken precautionary measures to minimise any risk here.

DARD has been liaising closely with Defra to monitor the situation over the last 24 hours and Minister Gildernew met with senior officials in DARD today to review the most up-to-date information available. The Department has also reviewed the position with the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin.

On the basis of the information available the Minister has decided to impose a precautionary ban on the movement of birds from Britain to attend bird gatherings in the north. Parallel precautionary action is being taken today by the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin also, so that together we can minimise the risk to the island of Ireland from that route.

The Sinn Féin Minister explained further:

"My objective is to ensure our response is effective and also proportionate. At this time it is not necessary to require the housing of birds here and it is not necessary to cancel bird gatherings. This means that bird gatherings continue to be permitted, including fairs, markets, shows, exhibitions and pigeon races.

"However, to minimise the disease risk to poultry here, the Department has put some trade restrictions in place. All existing general licences currently relating to the importation of poultry, poultry products including meat and table eggs and captive birds are hereby revoked. New specific and general licensing arrangements are in place effective from Tuesday 13 November.

"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. Bird keepers should feed and water their birds under cover in order to minimise the risk of contact with wild birds and anyone keeping birds outdoors must have a clear plan for housing or separating their birds in the event of a heightened risk to the north.

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

Any prospective importer wishing to import from any part of Britain should contact DARD Trade Section at 028 90524664 before import.

DARD 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. We will also continue to work closely with Defra and the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin.

The DARD helpline number is 028 9052 4999.


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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