230,000 birds culled in disease-control plan

A total of 85 wild-bird positives, across 16 counties, were detected for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) during a high-risk period from November 2021 to April 2022, the Department of Agriculture, Food an the Marine (DAFM) has confirmed .

And 230,000 birds were culled in 2020 and 2021 as part of the DAFM’s disease-control process.

The DAFM also confirmed that there has only been one additional confirmed case of H5N1 in a wild bird since April 2022.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, in a written response to a parliamentary question this week, said that following confirmation of HPAI in November 2021, the department stepped up its avian-influenza awareness campaign:

“The first wild-bird case of HPAI in Ireland during the past avian influenza season was confirmed on November 3, 2021 in a peregrine falcon submitted to Limerick regional veterinary laboratory,” he said.

Year Number of outbreaks HPAI
2018 0
2019 0
2020 1 (HPAI H5N8)
2021 6 (HPAI H5N1)
2022 0
Number of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in each of the years 2018 to 2021. Source: DAFM

“Where HPAI is confirmed, my department carries out a rapid and effective disease-control program to control the outbreaks and eradicate the virus on the infected premises,” he explained.

A rapid stamping-out policy was implemented on all infected premises, followed by implementation of all necessary disposal, cleaning and disinfection protocols.

“My department depopulated approximately 30,000 birds in 2020, and approximately 200,000 in 2021 as part of this disease-control process.”

Responding further to Deputy Carol Nolan, who questioned the minister on the avian influenza status in Ireland, he said the DAFM operates a monitoring program throughout the year.

But in Ireland, the high-risk period for avian influenza generally runs from October until April, coinciding with the movement of wild migratory birds which are the natural reservoir of avian influenza viruses.

In response to Deputy Nolan’s query regarding a particularly virulent strain of HPAI that appears to be present in the UK, Minister McConalogue said his department liaises closely with the authorities in the UK, and elsewhere, in relation to monitoring and controlling avian influenza outbreaks.

Commenting on the minster’s response, Deputy Nolan said she was prompted to ask about this issue given the “recent outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of avian flu in the UK, and in particular, in areas around the Scottish coast”.

“We know that sectors within agriculture and food production, including poultry, are already under enormous pressure in terms of input costs.

“That is why I sought assurances from the minister that everything possible and everything necessary were being done to protect our own bird population and indeed our protected species,” she said.

“We now know that a total of 85 wild bird positives have been confirmed during the high-risk avian flu period between November 2021 and April 2022 across 16 counties and that 230,000 birds have been culled between 2020 and 2021.

“However, it is somewhat reassuring to have it confirmed there has only been one additional confirmed case of H5N1 in a wild bird since April 2022.

“It is critical that the monitoring of this potential threat is robustly resourced and that ongoing liaison work with the UK authorities continue. I would also hope that the poultry sector is offered whatever support it needs should the avian flu situation escalate and become a threat to its financial viability,” she added.

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