Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 29 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Infectious Diseases.

Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the schemes in place by her Department or under the aegis of her Department to prevent, detect and combat the spread of infectious diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40714/06]

  Mary Coughlan: Maintaining Ireland’s acknowledged high status in relation to animal health is of critical importance given the economic and social significance of agriculture to the country. In this connection my Department has a number of disease prevention, eradication and surveillance [1519] schemes in place to ensure that this high health status is protected and maintained.

EU approved programmes for the prevention, control and eradication of certain animal diseases have been put in place by my Department for Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, BSE, Scrapie, Aujeszky’s Disease and Salmonella. These programmes include measures such as genotyping of positive flocks, active and passive surveillance testing of animals to ensure early detection of disease and culling of susceptible or infected animals for which compensation at market value is paid to the herd or flock owner.

Apart from these EU approved programmes, national disease prevention measures are also in place in this country including the recent introduction of an intensive surveillance programme initiated by my Department following the outbreaks of EIA in Ireland in 2006. The restriction and testing of horses traced as having been in-contact with earlier confirmed cases is a central element of my Department’s approach to containing and eradicating this disease. Constant vigilance is also maintained against the introduction of diseases such as Newcastle Disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever and African Swine Fever where the Department acts on suspicion of these disease symptoms reported by veterinary practitioners in the field. My Department also has contingency arrangements in place to deal with outbreaks of most of these diseases.

My Department also carries out surveillance testing in relation to a range of other diseases including Enzootic Bovine Leukosis, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Johnes Disease, Avian Influenza and Bluetongue.

Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the countries that have been effected by the avian flu virus; the level of risk to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40715/06]

  Mary Coughlan: Since December 2003, highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 has been reported in 61 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Pacific and the Near East. In the same period, human cases of avian influenza have been reported in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and, most recently, in South Korea (source OIE 27/11/06). The overall total of human cases of avian influenza for the affected countries stands at 258 with 153 fatalities.

The first case of the Asian lineage of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 reported in an EU Member State was in over-wintering waterfowl in Greece in February 2006. Since then the number of EU Member States where H5N1 has [1520] been detected in wild birds stands at 14 (Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, UK and Spain), with outbreaks in poultry recorded in 5 Member States in 2006 (France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Hungary). No further cases have been reported in the EU since a single infected bird was found in Spain in late June 2006.

In the absence of any reported disease in the EU since then and taking account of the autumn/winter migration, the risk of the introduction of the disease to Ireland is currently regarded as low. Notwithstanding this, I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department has developed comprehensive contingency arrangements to deal with any case/outbreak of avian influenza in wild birds or poultry and will further refine its preparedness along with other parties in the light of any development in the disease risk posed.