Effective bio-security measures by bird keepers are vital in protecting Northern Ireland against the threat of avian influenza, according to the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer at the North’s Department of Agriculture (DAERA).

Dr. Perpetua McNamee, said that with autumn upon us and winter quickly approaching, wild birds are starting their migratory cycle in preparation for winter.

“Wild birds increase the risk of potentially harmful diseases, one of which is avian influenza, being spread through contact with domestic birds.

“I therefore urge bird keepers, especially those with free range systems, to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of bio-security on their premises.”

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, DAERA advises.

The risk of disease spread can therefore be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds and DAERA said that these measures all help to mitigate the risk of a disease outbreak in local poultry flocks.

“All bird keepers, except those who keep caged pet birds in their home, are required to register and keep their details up to date on the DAERA Bird Register.

“This information allows the Department to provide keepers with up-to-date information about exotic avian disease and of the measures that can be taken to prevent spread to birds.”

Bird registration forms are available from the DAERA website or by contacting the DAERA Helpline and bird keepers who have not yet registered their birds should do so immediately.

Bird keepers are advised that they should contact their Private Veterinary Practitioner if they detect signs of disease in their birds.

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and must be reported as soon as possible to the local DAERA Divisional Veterinary Office.

Any unusual mortalities of wild birds should be reported to DAERA via the Helpline number on 0300 200 7840.

Over 27,000 birds destroyed due to bird flu outbreaks in Europe

Over 27,000 birds have been destroyed in EU Member States due to several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Cases were detected, in both domestic and wild birds, recently in Hungary and the Netherlands.

One case of a bird flu outbreak was reported in the Netherlands on October 26 where a total of 17,009 birds were deemed to be susceptible.

Meanwhile, two outbreaks of bird flu were detected in Hungary, involving both wild and domestic birds.