WALKERS and landowners are being advised not to touch any dead birds after avian flu was identified among seabirds on the Ards peninsula.
Dead seabirds, which were recovered from the Lough Shore Road in Portaferry, have tested positive for the disease while other dead birds have been found on the shore at Ballyhalbert and will be tested this week.
Other dead seabirds with avian flu have been confirmed along the coast at Bangor prompting the Public Health Agency, to issue warnings to the public.
The Agency said it is rare for humans to be infected with the disease and that the risk to the health of the general public is very low, however precautions should be taken.
Walkers and landowners have been warned not to pick up or touch any dead or injured wild birds as this can cause the disease to spread to other colonies of seabirds or poultry flocks. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it was working closely with public health officials and Ards and North Down Council and has taken proactive measures to improve biosecurity at seabird breeding colonies.
Portaferry councillor Joe Boyle urged people to be cautious, keep their pets on leads and not go near any remains or carcases of birds found on local shores.
“Residents had brought to my attention their observation, whilst out walking the Lough Shore Road in Portaferry on the July 13 and noticing a number of guillemots deceased on the shore line and as far out as Ballyhenry Island Portaferry,” he said.
“I immediately contacted the Ards and North Down Council CEO, Stephen Reid, to report the findings and one of our directors, Graeme Bannester then proceeded to work with the Veterinary Department in DAERA.”
Mr Boyle said officials retrieved some of the birds and carried out tests before confirming that they had been suffering from avian flu.
“It would appear to be the responsibility of the land owner, in this case the National Trust, to remove infected birds in this location, and that the council would be notifying it accordingly.
“If, however, a new area is identified the public should ring DAERA who will determine if they are content that the landowner disposes of any carcases, which can be done safely with a few precautions.
Councillor Robert Adair has also been contacted by concerned residents and has seen for himself a number of dead guillemots and gulls at South Shore, Ballyhalbert.
He said: “I have been working with the council along DAERA officials whose veterinary department would be concerned regarding bird flu and whose intention it would be to recover some of those guillemots today or tomorrow morning depending on staff availability.
“The public are asked not to touch them and also to keep dogs away from carcases.”
Any member of the public who finds dead or injured birds on the shore is asked to report the find to a DAERA helpline on 0300 200 7840.
Do not pick up or touch sick, dying or dead poultry or wild birds, and keep pets away from them. People should also avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with bird faeces and avoid untreated bird feathers and other bird waste.