Belfast Telegraph

Bird flu ban is lifted on free range poultry, health chiefs confirm

Health chiefs have lifted a bird flu ban which took free range chickens and eggs off dinner tables around the country.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said it is no longer a legal requirement to confine poultry and other birds under the emergency measures against avian influenza.

A clampdown against the threat also saw penguins, flamingos and ostriches taken out of view at Dublin Zoo.

An indefinite curfew was imposed after a case of the H5N8 strain of bird flu was confirmed in a wigeon, or wild duck, found in Co Wexford late last year.

But the Department said on Tuesday it has decided to lift the confinement because of a "reducing risk of an avian influenza incursion".

There has been no case of bird flu confirmed in wild birds for the last eight weeks, while other factors include reducing numbers of migratory waterfowl and rising temperatures and daylight hours.

"Lifting the requirement to confine birds means that all poultry and bird owners can now allow their birds access to open areas and runs," said a Department spokesman.

"However, owners should not be complacent as there is still the possibility of the virus being present in the environment or being transmitted to their flock by wild birds.

"Bird owners should continue to remain vigilant, monitor their birds for any signs of disease and implement strict disease control measures.

"In particular birds should be fed indoors or under cover where feasible."

Producers of free range chickens and eggs were barred from using the "free range" term on March 17 because of the restrictions.

They will be able to start using the branding again but only for eggs produced and birds slaughtered from Tuesday onwards.

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