BELFAST, Northern Ireland – The Dept. of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland announced a new text alert service to warn bird producers of any disease outbreaks. The move comes a month after the United Kingdom met international requirements to officially declare the country free from an outbreak of H5N8 avian influenza that had affected England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The Department has recently launched a new text alert service for all bird keepers to receive immediate notifications of disease outbreaks or other important disease information,” Robert Huey, Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, said in a statement. “This will enable bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity. I would therefore encourage bird keepers to subscribe to this service by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.”

Producers who have provided DAERA with a valid mobile phone number and registered their birds automatically were subscribed to the service and notified by text. The agency is advising producers who have not received confirmation are being advised to text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300 to subscribe to the new text alert service.

“The risk of avian influenza remains a real and constant threat as the disease continues to circulate in Europe,” Huey noted. “With autumn upon us and decreasing temperatures, wild birds are starting their migratory cycle in preparation for winter. Wild birds increase the risk of avian influenza being spread through contact with domestic birds. I therefore urge bird keepers, especially those with free range systems, to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of biosecurity on their premises.”