Avian Influenza housing order to come into force as infection detected County Antrim
New housing measures are to be introduced as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in Northern Ireland (NI) from 29 November, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced.
The decision to introduce a housing order in NI follows the confirmation of 17 cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 across Great Britain (GB) and one case in a commercial turkey flock in County Monaghan.
DAERA officials have also confirmed, late last night, the presence of Avian Influenza in two wild birds retrieved from the Belfast Waterworks site earlier this week.
Disease control zones have been put in place around all infected premises to mitigate against onward disease spread.
Under the new housing measures all bird keepers in NI will be legally required to keep their birds indoors or otherwise separate from wild birds and follow strict biosecurity measures. This applies to owners of pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard or hobby flock.
Announcing the decision to introduce a housing order, Minister Poots said:
“I took the decision to introduce the new housing measures in order to try to prevent an incursion of avian influenza into the poultry flock in Northern Ireland.
“It is now a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds. This decision was based on sound expert advice and in consultation with industry.
“This decision to house is an additional step to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) introduced on the 17 November and another necessary precautionary measure requiring all bird keepers to keep their birds housed. These housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were brought in as part of the AIPZ.
“Since my decision to introduce the housing order, we have now discovered avian flu in two wild birds in Belfast – that tells us unequivocally that the disease is already here and in our wild bird population.
“Keeping it out of the commercial flocks is now down to our poultry sector and the measures they take to keep the disease out. Adhering to, and constant review of, all biosecurity measures is the best weapon we have to avoid an incursion.
“My officials will continue to liaise closely with stakeholders and colleagues in GB and the ROI as the situation develops.”
To assist all bird keepers in complying with the new rules we have developed a Biosecurity self-assessment tool which is available on the DAERA website.
If avian influenza were to enter our NI flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.
Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.
They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:
housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control
thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
Please register your flock (even if you only have one bird) so that DAERA can reach you directly with future communications and updates. You can register by contacting your local DAERA Direct office or online via the DAERA website at Bird registration form | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (daera-ni.gov.uk)
DAERA encourages all bird keepers to sign up to the text alert service simply by texting 'BIRDS' to 67300. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity.
The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low.
The Food Standards Agency has also advised, in avian influenza incursions of this type, that there is a very low risk to public health from the consumption of properly cooked poultry meat or eggs provided appropriate hygiene measures are followed.