Public health warning as bird flu detected in Limerick

A black-headed seagull which is usually smaller than the common seagull.

PUBLIC health officials have warned people to avoid contact with sick or dead wild birds to prevent the spread of bird flu in humans after the viral disease was found in black-headed seagulls in Limerick.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Health Mid-West advised that members of the public should “avoid handling or coming into contact” with any type of ailing or dead birds.

“We are working with officials in the Department of Agriculture in relation to the detection of avian influenza (ie bird flu) in a series of black-headed seagulls in Limerick,” he said.

“We can confirm there was no known contact by members of the public with these birds. Avian influenza infection in humans is very rare, but it can be serious.”

Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Kenneth Beatty said not handling the birds would “reduce the risk of any possible bird flu infection in humans”.

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The Department spokesman advised that people who find dead poultry or wild birds, should notify the nearest Regional Veterinary Office or ring the Avian Influenza Helpline: 01 607 2512 (outside of office hours: 01 492 8026).

He also warned people to keep their pets away from dead birds and “to avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with bird faeces as well as untreated bird feathers (such as those found in the environment) and other bird waste”.

The spokesman said people should “regularly wash their hands with soap and warm water, and use alcohol-based hand gel” to prevent the virus spreading.