The stark warning comes as the French department of Agriculture has confirmed the first case of bird flu avian influenza H5N8 in 20 wild ducks in the countries north earlier this week. The French authorities have said that the pathogen has not spread to its domestic herds.
The highly infectious disease has lead to the culling of 190,000 ducks by the Dutch last week and the culling of more than 300,000 ducks in Japan. The bird flu outbreaks are the first in nearly two years in Japan. The strain that has hit Japan is a different variation of the pathogen known as H5 bird flu.
Speaking to That’s Farming, Nigel Renaghan IFA national poultry chairman said;
‘I wasn’t concerned about the European outbreaks of bird flu until about 3 weeks ago but since the news in France, the threat is growing ever closer.’
The poultry chairman urged caution for Irish farmers;
‘We need to be very vigilant, if we see any cases of outbreak in Scotland or England then I will be calling on all our free range and organic farmers to house their birds immediately. They are the most at risk because they could come into contact with migratory birds carrying the disease.’
2016 has been a bad year for poultry with outbreaks of bird flu occurring in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania and Germany as well as the South of France which experienced a large cull.
The H5N8 virus has never been detected in humans.
The world health organisation has warned that further outbreaks may occur in Europe as migratory birds move south for the winter.
‘Migration will be finished in December so we will know more then,’ said Renaghan.
Many migrating birds to Ireland follow different paths than those flying in mainland Europe.