The Public Health Agency is urging poultry workers to take up the free flu vaccine that is available to them. The programme runs from October to December.
This is a precautionary public health measure to reduce the risk of poultry workers contracting both avian and human influenza simultaneously.
Vaccination with influenza vaccine reduces the theoretical risk of a circulating human influenza virus mixing with an avian influenza virus to produce a new influenza virus which could lead to a pandemic. Influenza vaccine protects against human influenza but does not protect against avian influenza.
The definition of a ‘poultry worker’ is unchanged from last year. The definition forms the basis of selection and includes:
i) Workers employed at or regularly visiting registered poultry units who:
• routinely access enclosed poultry rearing or egg production areas;
• perform initial sorting of poultry eggs if the sorting area is an integral part of the production unit;
• catch or cull poultry within enclosed poultry rearing or egg production areas; or
• perform final clean down of poultry sheds following depopulation of a poultry house.
ii) Workers who collect and remove poultry manure or litter from within enclosed poultry rearing or egg production areas of registered poultry units.
iii) Workers in poultry processing units that:
• catch and handle live birds;
• kill and eviscerate birds;
• cleanse and disinfect areas and equipment contaminated by poultry faeces.
The following workers are not considered to be at higher than normal risk of exposure to avian influenza viruses and do not need to receive the influenza vaccination:
• workers in poultry units that do not require statutory registration;
• workers in and around farms that have registered poultry units, but who do not enter the enclosed poultry management areas or egg sorting facilities;
• workers delivering materials to poultry units;
• workers collecting or delivering eggs or poultry (live or dead) from poultry premises (unless also undertaking duties included in (i) above);
• workers in poultry processing units handling poultry carcasses but not involved in killing or eviscerating poultry (unless also undertaking duties included in (iii) above).
All those eligible under i), ii) and iii) above, should contact their GP to arrange for vaccination as, unlike clinical ‘at risk’ groups, GPs will not be proactively calling poultry workers for vaccination. GPs have been advised that a letter of confirmation is not required this year.
Contact PHA Press Office 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
There is no issue regarding the supply of flu vaccinations for Northern Ireland as all stocks have been purchased centrally from three different suppliers.
Poultry workers who consider themselves to fall into the definition above should contact their GP directly to arrange vaccination.