First case of bird flu strain confirmed in Co Tipperary

Department of Agriculture says risk to public from H5N6 ‘very low’ after eagle found dead

A white-tailed sea eagle. File photograph: iStock

A white-tailed sea eagle. File photograph: iStock

 

A white-tailed sea eagle found dead in Co Tipperary was carrying the only case detected in Ireland so far of a highly infectious strain of bird flu, it has been confirmed.

The Department of Agriculture said on Friday that tests had shown the type of avian flu found in the dead bird was a “highly pathogenic” strain previously confirmed in Britain and mainland Europe.

Farmers were warned to take precautions after the eagle was found dead on January 31st but health authorities said the risk to the public was very low and that there was no food safety risk for consumers.

In a statement on Friday, the department said tests had confirmed the avian flu subtype found in the bird was H5N6 and that it was the only case detected in the Republic so far.

“As previously advised, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that the risk to humans is considered to be very low,” it added.

“The Food Safety Authority of Ireland confirms that poultry meat is safe to eat, provided that it is handled hygienically while raw, and cooked thoroughly prior to consumption.”

The department said it continued to closely monitor the disease situation and was in consultation with the poultry industry on possible future risk-mitigating measures.

It was also in close contact with its counterparts in Northern Ireland on the matter.

“It is vital for flock owners to apply strict biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of avian influenza. In particular, flock owners should feed and water birds inside or under cover where wild birds cannot access the feed or water. Keep poultry separate from wild birds by putting suitable fencing around the outdoor areas they access,” the department added.

“Flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, and report any disease suspicion to their nearest department veterinary office.”

Register

The department said anyone who keeps poultry, even small numbers of poultry for their own use, or who deals or trades in poultry, must register their premises with the department.

Anyone who owns other birds such as racing pigeons, aviary birds or other captive birds is also encouraged to register.

It advised the public not to handle sick or dead birds but to notify the nearest department veterinary office or to ring the avian influenza hotline on 076-106 4403, or 1850 200456 outside office hours.

Department staff will continue to collect birds for testing to help understand how the disease is distributed geographically, in different species and over time.

Earlier this week, the department said the bird’s death was “not unexpected” given recent detections of the H5N6 virus in wild birds in Britain.

Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species.