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Department Officials review Avian 'Flu situation

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., confirmed that the Management Committee of her Department's National Disease Control Centre met this morning to review the most up-to-date information available from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London in relation to the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian 'flu on a turkey farm in Suffolk.

The UK authorities will make a presentation on the outbreak to a meeting of the EU Commission Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), which will be attended by officials from the Department of Agriculture and Food in Brussels tomorrow. The issue will be further reviewed at a meeting of Chief Veterinary Officers of the EU Member States on Wednesday.

The Minister said that following the meeting in her Department and consultation with UK and Northern Ireland authorities, she had decided to impose a ban on the movement of birds from Great Britain for gatherings and shows in Ireland. The ban which is purely precautionary will not include poultry travelling from Northern Ireland for such gatherings and shows.

The Minister said that her Department is taking immediate steps to reissue advice and information to poultry flockowners and the public in relation to the necessity to maintain high levels of on-farm biosecurity and the reporting of wild bird mortalities to the Department's avian 'flu helpline number - 1890 252 283. In addition, ongoing contacts are being maintained with the farming community and the Irish poultry industry.

The Department has in place a wild bird surveillance programme and has made renewed contact with officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and representative groups of wild bird hunters in relation to the programme and the continued need to provide samples to the Department for analysis.

The Minister said "the situation in England will continue to be kept under review in the light of any further information emerging from DEFRA".

She also said that her officials were in daily contact with their counterparts in Northern Ireland to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the issue on the island.

In conclusion, Minister Coughlan said "in the meantime no additional measures, other than the ban on the movement of birds from GB for shows and gatherings, are being introduced at this time".

5 February, 2007

Date Released: 05 February 2007