Disease control measures in place after NI bird flu case

New measures are in place after bird flu was detected in a commercial flock
New measures are in place after bird flu was detected in a commercial flock

Temporary control zones and new bird culls will go ahead in Northern Ireland following confirmation of a new case of avian influenza in the region.

NI's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) has initiated disease control measures after bird flu was confirmed at a commercial poultry farm in County Antrim.

In an effort to stop the spread of the virus and protect the poultry industry, temporary control zones have been introduced around the farm and birds will be humanely culled.

It follows recent detections of highly-pathogenic avian influenza of the H5N8 subtype in a number of wild birds across Northern Ireland.

CVO Dr Robert Huey said: “Given the level of suspicion and the density of the poultry population around the holding, it is vital that as a matter of precaution, we act now and act fast.

"I have therefore taken the decision to cull the birds as well as introduce temporary control zones around the holding in an effort to protect our poultry industry and stop the spread of the virus.

"An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the likely source of infection and determine the risk of disease spread.”

To date there have been eight positive cases of highly-pathogenic avian influenza confirmed in wild birds in NI across five different locations.

There have also been recent detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Britain, in addition to detections in the Republic of Ireland.

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

Dr Huey said the actions taken to date in NI had helped to protect the region's commercial flocks from wild birds.

"This incursion of suspected notifiable AI, however, reminds us all of how critically important it is to be vigilant and take all necessary steps required to prevent the further spread of AI," he added.

"I urge all bird keepers to critically review their biosecurity measures and remind them that birds are now legally required to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

“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."

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 the disease poses a very low food safety risk.