Bird flu discovery in Wexford town

By david looby

Wildlife expert Jim Hurley
Wildlife expert Jim Hurley

WEXFORD wildlife expert Jim Hurely has warned that vigilance is needed after a duck was found with a strain of avian bird flu in County Wexford on Wednesday.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed the influenza subtype H5N8 was found in a wild duck known as a wigeon on Wednesday in Wexford town. The bird was found alive but unable to fly. Further tests are being carried out to determine whether the virus is the same highly pathogenic strain that is currently present in Great Britain and mainland Europe, the Department of Agriculture said of the first Irish-based find. The results of these tests are due back this week.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has said although the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections of the virus have been reported anywhere. The risk to humans is considered to be very low, it said.

The discovery comes days following an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 in a turkey flock near the coast in Lincolnshire, England and in a dead wild duck in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Other cases have been detected in Europe, including Poland and France, since the end of October.

Mr Hurley said he was not surprised to learn of the case in Wexford town.

'I'm not surprised because there was a case in Wales the previous week.'

Mr Hurley said the last outbreak of avain bird flu in the county was in 1983. 'It's early days yet so it's a matter of vigilance and people reporting any signs of disease in their flocks to the Department of Agriculture. It's an unfolding situation.'

The discovery comes after the Department of Agriculture took the unprecedented step last month of ordering farmers to move their poultry indoors. Regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 require 'flock keepers to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession or under their control in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access and to apply particular bio-security measures', it said.

The Irish Farmers' Association's poultry committee chairman Nigel Renaghan recently said there were concerns for the poultry industry's reputation should there be an outbreak in Ireland.

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