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Fermanagh farmers in bird flu alert

Poultry fear: avian flu is a constant threat to farms
Poultry fear: avian flu is a constant threat to farms
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Farmers have been warned to step up biosecurity measures as a suspected outbreak of bird flu is investigated at a poultry farm in Co Fermanagh.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said that officials are investigating the suspected presence of a "notifiable avian disease" (NAD) in a broiler breeder flock in Co Fermanagh.

A private veterinary practitioner contacted DAERA on January 2 with concerns over increased bird mortality at the premises.

The DAERA spokesperson said a veterinary enquiry at the holding started that evening. Testing has already started on samples taken from birds to detect the presence of serious bird diseases like avian influenza and Newcastle disease.

The results are expected to take several days and restrictive measures are in place on the farm.

The spokesperson added: "All bird keepers are urged to remain vigilant and if they suspect any signs of the disease in their flocks, they must report it immediately to DAERA.

"All poultry keepers, including backyard flock keepers and those keeping game birds and pet birds, need to act now and maintain high levels of biosecurity at all times in order to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their flocks." Last month, 27,000 chickens were culled when the H5 strain of bird flu was discovered at a poultry business in Suffolk.

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At the time DAERA said the risk to poultry in Northern Ireland remains low but avian flu was still a "constant threat".

Migrating winter birds increase the risk of contamination and DAERA has previously stated that an outbreak of avian influenza would have "a significant impact" on the poultry industry and wider economy.

Any suspected outbreaks must be reported immediately to the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840.

A text alert system is also available for bird owners by texting 'BIRDS' to 67300.

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