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More stringent measures needed on avian flu threat – Ó Caoláin

6 February, 2007

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said more stringent precautionary measures are needed in the face of the threat from the H5N1 avian flu virus. He said that the decision of the Minister for Agriculture and Food to ban imports of birds from Britain for shows and gatherings was not enough. The Cavan-Monaghan TD raised the matter in the Dáil today (Tuesday) and stated:

"Four states - Hong Kong, Japan, Russia and South Korea - have already banned all poultry imports from Britain. While the EU Commission has today criticised this move, it nonetheless underlines the seriousness with which this threat is viewed. In that context I believe the Minister for Agriculture and Food's limited ban on imports of birds from Britain for shows and gatherings is not sufficient.

"Our priority must be to safeguard human health and the poultry industry on the island of Ireland. For that reason the import of all poultry and poultry products from Britain should be stopped until the all-clear is given. Such a short-term disruption to trade would be negligible if it helped to ensure that this virus did not spread to Ireland, devastating the poultry industry and posing a real threat to human health.

"The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Britain has been unable to confirm whether or not eggs may have been imported to the infected Bernard Matthews plant in Britain from its plant in Hungary, in which country there was another outbreak of H5N1 last month.

"The British Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said that while the risk to human health is remote they are preparing 'very, very seriously and thoroughly for the possibility of a pandemic flu'.

"The United Nations co-ordinator for human influenza and avian flu, David Nabarro, has highlighted the high number of cases of the disease at present and that everybody needs to be anxious about the situation.

"All of this emphasises the need for more stringent measures here." ENDS

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