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Biosecurity & Avian Influenza

From October onwards, the poultry industry is faced with a significant disease threat of Avian Influenza (AI); and this year is no different. On November 3rd, the first case of Highly Pathogenic AI (HPAI) was confirmed in a wild bird in Galway. Since this announcement, the situation has only worsened. There are now over 49 confirmed cases in wild birds, and a number cases in commercial poultry holdings.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) have introduced a nationwide housing order from November 22nd. This means all flock owners are legally required to keep all flocks indoors until this order is lifted.

In an effort to limit the spread of HPAI, all producers must tighten the biosecurity measures being implemented on farm. DAFM have introduced a Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 593 of 2021) in relation to biosecurity measures which must be in place on all farms.

Biosecurity Measures

It is crucial to limit the number of visitors to the poultry site. Only essential visitors should be granted access to the site. Those who must come on site, should be fully clothed in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). This should include disposable boot covers, cover-alls, gloves, hair net and face mask. This PPE must be left on site, to prevent spread to another site. A detailed visitor log must be kept of all visitors who come on site; this should include feed deliveries, gas deliveries. Date, name, vehicle registration, company, reason for visit, the last poultry site visited and the date of that visit.

Staff/Personnel working on farm must be fully aware of all biosecurity measures. They must not be in contact with any other poultry of any type. If this is unavoidable, they must take all ‘reasonable measures’ to prevent the transfer of AI to or from a poultry unit. These measures should include the cleaning and disinfection of equipment, vehicles and footwear that may have been in contact with poultry or captive birds. Staff should be provided with house-specific clothing and footwear. Outdoor shoes should not enter the commercial poultry house.

Disinfection of vehicles should take place at the gate, a suitable method of disinfecting, with a suitable disinfectant should be available at all times for essential visitors who must come on site. There must be footdips at all entry and exit points to the unit. The disinfectant must be effective against AI (Check out DAFM Approved list). This must be replenished as required. Hand washing facilities should be readily available in the store area, with antibacterial soap and hot water present. Within the store area, a step-over barrier creates distinct dirty and clean zones. This barrier is the point at which clothing must be changed/or additional boot covers put on. Be sure to check on Teagasc’s biosecurity video for more information on step-over barriers.

The area surrounding the poultry unit must be kept clean and tidy. Any feed spillages should be cleaned up immediately. No pools or stagnant water should be allowed to develop. All waste and rubbish material should be removed from site. These measures are to deter wild birds from landing on the site. The concrete apron at the house front should be kept cleaned and disinfected to prevent any potential disease being carried in to the house by people.  

The structure of the building must be examined and ensure its integrity is intact. Any damage which may allow vermin access to the house must be repaired ASAP. The rodent control points must be monitored also, to ensure no activity is taking place, as vermin could potentially carry the virus into the house.

Record keeping is very important to keep track of all movement of birds or produce on and off farm. These records must include:

  • The Quantity & Description (Species of Bird/Type of Egg)
  • Date of Each Movement
  • Land/Premises of Destination
  • Name & Address of the Person to Whom Consigned

HPAI Symptoms

It is crucial that all producers follow the stringent biosecurity measures which have been introduced by DAFM.

All producers should be vigilant for any disease which cannot be explained. If they suspect AI this should be reported to their nearest Regional Veterinary Office and your veterinary practitioner.

Symptoms include:

  • Death/High Mortalities
  • Depression/Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Respiratory distress (Gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling)
  • Swelling & Blue Discolouration of combs, wattles, neck & throat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced egg production/No egg production

The disease poses no food safety risk for consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.

For more information, visit the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine website. The National Disease Control Centre release updates on a regular basis. You can subscribe on the DAFM website.