Egg Availability Diminished due to Avian Influenza
An outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza of the H6N1 subtype in commercial poultry flocks has led to a drop in egg production.
This subtype of avian influenza is not a notifiable disease and has no known public health risk nor international trade implications.
However it can lead to a sharp loss of egg production by table egg laying hens. It is concentrated in County Monaghan which is the main source of egg supplies in the Rep of Ireland. Movement restrictions have been imposed as a precautionary measure on a number of sites, at various stages since the problem first arose, in order to protect other flocks.
As a result of this loss of production, at a time of peak consumer demand in the last six weeks, a shortfall in supplies has emerged which has had to be filled by eggs from outside the state.
The drop in egg production is estimated to be of the order of between 10% and 15%, although it may be higher, while demand increased by reported figures of more than 30%. However, these figures are estimates; as this is an evolving situation these figures may rise or fall and it is therefore likely that eggs will have to continue to be imported for some time to meet demand.
While the situation in Monaghan is related to a non-notifiable strain of avian influenza, it is a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring high standards of biosecurity in poultry flocks. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a statement last month reminding all poultry owners, including those who keep only one or two birds, of their obligations to register their premises with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Poultry owners, including backyard flock owners, are required to be vigilant and to implement strict biosecurity on their premises, particularly by ensuring only essential personnel, vehicles and equipment have access to their flocks and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds.
Flock-owners should also regularly monitor their birds for signs of disease. If they suspect avian influenza, they must report it immediately to their veterinarian or to one of the Department’s Regional Veterinary Offices.