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Suspect case of notifiable avian flu identified in Northern Ireland

DAERA has introduced disease control measures following initial confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in samples collected from captive birds at Castle Espie, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), Strangford Lough.

As a precautionary measure, following initial laboratory results, a 3km disease control restriction zone has been put in place around the infected premises, whereby all poultry and captive birds must now be kept in secure housing or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has said: 

To date there have been over 180 cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 across the UK, since the first case confirmed in England on 26 October 2021. There have been six confirmed outbreaks in Northern Ireland over the past 12 months, the most recent in February, with a significant number of wild bird findings across the year. In addition, there have been six confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland. Prior to this the largest number of cases in Great Britain was 26 cases in 2020/2021 and 13 cases in 2016/17.

“The continual positive findings of H5N1 across Great Britain, and findings through our wild bird surveillance programme, suggest that the disease is already once again present in Northern Ireland. It is of paramount importance that all bird keepers take appropriate action to review and enhance their biosecurity measures to protect their birds from this highly infectious disease.

“No poultry premises or captive bird site is immune from a potential incursion. All must take immediate action now to protect not only local flocks and commercial premises, but our entire industry and specialised conservation and educational sites, from this dreadful disease.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for NI, Dr Robert Huey, added:

All flock keepers must take action now to review and, where necessary, improve biosecurity in order to prevent an incursion of the disease into our poultry flock. If Avian Influenza were to enter our Northern Ireland commercial flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy. In addition, the negative financial and emotional impact on the individual farm family and business is something we have seen all too often with disease incursions and we must do everything we can to avoid this, particularly at this time of heightened risk.”

DAERA encourages anyone with their flock (however small) not already registered to ensure they do so with the Department so that we 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.  

You can also 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.

Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must, by law, report it to their local DAERA Direct Office.

The Public Health Agency continue to highlight that the risk of influenza H5N1 infection to UK residents within the UK is very low. Further details of what to do if you find a dead or sick bird are available on the DAERA website. The Food Standards Agency also advise that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not change their current advice on consumption of poultry products including eggs.

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.


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