The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is urging bird keepers in Northern Ireland to prepare for the threat of avian flu this winter as we enter the high-risk period for the disease as wild birds begin their migratory cycle.
High standards of biosecurity on all poultry keepers premises are vital in protecting Northern Ireland against the continuing threat of avian flu as the disease is circulating across Great Britain and Europe.
The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Northern Ireland, Dr. Robert Huey said: "The risk of avian flu remains a real and constant threat as the disease continues to circulate and we are now entering the high-risk period for the disease due to the winter wild bird migrating season.
"Given the positive wild bird findings across various locations in Northern Ireland over recent months, and the start of winter migration, consistently high standards of biosecurity are essential.
"I encourage all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, whether you keep one bird or hundreds, to act now to carefully consider and improve biosecurity where possible to reduce the risk of transmission of disease to your flocks.
"If avian flu were to enter any flock, including backyard or hobby flocks, it would have a devastating effect on the poultry industry and would significantly impact international trade."
The risk of a notifiable avian influenza incursion into the NI poultry flock is moderate with high uncertainty, with biosecurity continuing to play a key role in the risk posed to each individual flock. The current Veterinary Risk Assessment (VRA) can be accessed on the DAERA website.
Detailed information on how to improve biosecurity can be found on the Avian Influenza Hub.
Some simple measures flock keepers can take to protect their birds against the threat of avian flu are as follows:
- Keeping the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice and regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces
- Cleaning footwear before and after visits
- Placing birds' feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and removing any spilled feed regularly
- Putting fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limiting their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl
- Where possible, avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species.
Dr. Huey added: "All bird keepers, except those who keep caged pet birds in their home, are legally required to register and keep their details up to date on the DAERA Bird Register. This information is vital to help the Department deal effectively with a disease outbreak and to provide advice to keepers on the measures required to protect their birds."
DAERA encourages all bird keepers to sign up to the text alert service. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity. Simply text BIRDS OPT IN to add your number to RECEIVE text messages to 07860 098672.
If your poultry have been registered and you provided the Department with a valid mobile number, you have automatically been subscribed to this service and notified by text.