Poots warns of ‘significant’ and growing bird flu threat

Poots warns of ‘significant’ and growing bird flu threat

Avian flu poses a “present” threat in Northern Ireland and will be “more significant” in the months ahead, Edwin Poots has warned.

The agriculture minister’ warning came following the identification of several suspected cases in commercial, privately-owned and wild birds t and his department will now monitor the impact of winter migration.

On December 5, the department  of agriculture confirmed that avian flu had been detected in six wild birds found in Belfast Waterworks, Harbour Estate and in Carryduff.

That followed the cull of 27,000 ducks after an outbreak at a commercial facility in Aughnaclo, County Tyrone, the value of which the minister put between £500k and £1m.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Poots warned those who keep birds as pets needed to be “very cautious” after suspected cases were found in a “backyard flock” in Broughshane in County Antrim.

“This isn’t just something for the commercial farmers, it’s those people as well, so their flock has been wiped out of around 30 birds,” he told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster.

DAERA has also advised the public not to “touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds”.

Mr Poots said owners should take actions such as handwashing, changing boots when entering the area were birds are housed and changing into disposable boiler suits as means to avoid the spread of the virus.

“We can’t stress enough that people need to do that, not just once or twice, every time,” he explained.

“While they might get bored doing it and think it’s overkill, it will not be overkill if this arrives into your flock because it will wipe your flock out. It has a devastating impact.”

The minister added that avian flu is “hugely present in England” and there had also been recent outbreaks in County Monaghan.