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Vigilance urged after avian flu outbreak in England

Anyone wishing to bring poultry products or live birds into the north must now apply for a specific licence.

AN OUTBREAK of avian flu in Britain has led to the suspension of the general licence for the importation of poultry products and live birds into Northern Ireland

Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill also urged poultry farmers in the north to be vigilant following confirmation of the avian influenza in Lancashire.

Anyone wishing to bring poultry products or live birds into the north must now apply for a specific licence.

The change comes after the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in England established a protection and surveillance zone around an egg production premises near Preston on Monday.

The H7N7 strain of the disease has been found on the farm and Defra are culling all the poultry at the premises to prevent the potential spread of infection.

"This outbreak has been declared in England only," Ms O'Neill said.

"My department has been liaising with Defra who have made it clear that the risk to public health is very low and that there is no risk to the food chain.

“Since they became aware of the early indications of the disease in Lancashire, my staff have been in direct contact with key poultry industry representatives and stakeholders in the north of Ireland to advise them of the situation and to call for increased vigilance.

"While the situation will be kept under review, I would encourage bird keepers, as a precaution, to revisit their own biosecurity."

"As a precaution the general licence for import of live poultry, poultry meat, poultry products, or hatching eggs from Britain has been suspended and anyone wishing to import these should apply to the department for a specific licence."

Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said they were "continuing to liaise closely with DEFRA and are conducting a veterinary risk assessment for the north of Ireland, the results of which will inform whether any additional local control measures are required at this time".

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