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H5N8 confirmed in second commercial flock in County Antrim

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey, has confirmed that notifiable Avian Influenza, subtype H5N8 has been found in a second poultry flock in Northern Ireland, at a commercial holding near Lisburn.

Confirming the finding, Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, Robert Huey said, “A second suspect case of notifiable Avian Influenza (AI) was reported to the Department last week. After initial results from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) suggested the presence of notifiable AI, I put strict disease control measures in place in the area, including Temporary Control Zones (3km and 10km) to mitigate against onward disease spread and 31,000 birds were humanely culled at the premises. The National Reference Laboratory has now confirmed that H5N8 has been detected. This is Northern Ireland’s second H5N8 case ever in a poultry flock.”

Last week, Dr Huey confirmed Northern Ireland’s first ever case of H5N8 at a commercial premises in Clough, where 80,000 birds had to be slaughtered. In addition, the Department has been investigating a number of other suspect cases across the region.

Speaking about the recent developments, Dr Huey said: “While I have now confirmed Northern Ireland’s second ever case of H5N8 in domestic poultry, we are also investigating reports of further suspicious outbreaks of disease across the region. Flock keepers are rightly alarmed and, as Chief Veterinary Officer, I am extremely concerned about the serious risk of spread. This is a worrying and dangerous time for our poultry sector as we are in the middle of the migratory wildfowl season, but we can take urgent and proven actions that will protect our flocks, and protect our economy.

“While we complete our epidemiological investigation to determine the likely source of infection and the risk of disease spread on the two AI confirmed holdings, I am imploring all flock keepers – from those who keep half a dozen chickens in their garden, to those who have thousands of birds – play your part, review your biosecurity measures and take whatever extra precautions you can to protect your birds from infection. Neither you, nor I, want a repeat of the scenes at the two confirmed holdings – it’s been a very difficult and testing time for the farm families involved.”

To date there have been eight positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland (NI) across five different locations. There have also been recent detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Great Britain (GB), in addition to detections in the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in place across NI since the 1 December to further enhance biosecurity measures and a mandatory housing order has been in place since 23 December.

Dr Huey continued: “This breach of Northern Ireland’s commercial flocks’ biosecurity should sound as an alarm bell for the entire poultry sector. This is not a test run, it is not a warning, you must take action now to prevent further outbreaks – otherwise your flock could be the next confirmed AI case. I am urging everyone to critically review and improve where necessary their biosecurity arrangements, remaining alert for any signs of disease. If you are concerned about the health of your birds in any way please report it to DAERA immediately.”

The advice from public health officials is that the risk to public health from these strains of Avian Influenza is very low. The Food Standards Agency advises that Avian Influenza poses a very low food safety risk.


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