Today (Tuesday, June 13), health services in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland led an exercise to enhance cross-border preparation for any possible future incidents of avian influenza (bird flu).

Over 50 experts from disciplines across health, veterinary science, agriculture, laboratory services and the food sector, participated in the table-top exercise held in Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Jointly organised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) National Health Protection Service and the Public Health Agency (PHA), participants took part in planning exercises and discussions on optimising cross-border communication, coordination and disease control in the case of bird flu in birds and/or humans.

Dr. Joanne McClean, director of public health at the PHA, said: “Public health emergencies don’t recognise borders, so it is crucial that we work together on an all-island basis to tackle any threat to human and animal health.

“Planning events such as this are key to having the correct systems in place to act quickly and effectively in reducing the most severe effects on population health should we be faced with these risks in the future.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us all the effectiveness of multi-agency collaborative working in order to protect the public.”

Dr. Éamonn O’Moore, national director of health protection, HSE added: “Close working relationships with our nearest neighbours in Northern Ireland and indeed with all of the UK are vital as we prepare for emergencies such as avian flu.

“Establishment of shared understanding, shared protocols and approaches will enable rapid and agile joint response to better protect population health across this island.

“Using a ‘One-Health’ approach which places equal importance on measures that address avian influenza virus from animal, human and environmental health perspectives, integrated exercises such as these strengthen our emergency preparedness for future threats.”

Planning and preparation events for health protection take place regularly, with further cross-border exercises planned in the coming years.