More than 100,000 birds to be culled in NI after Avian Flu outbreak

With more cases of Avian Flu in the UK, owners of poultry and captive birds in West Sussex are urged to take precautions.
A mass cull of more than 100,000 birds is to take place following an outbreak of avian flu in Northern Ireland.

A mass cull of more than 100,000 birds is to take place following an outbreak of avian flu in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that a strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been found in a poultry flock in Clough, Co Down.

Approximately 80,000 birds will be culled at the location, the department said.

A second suspected case is under investigation at a commercial holding in Lisburn, where approximately 31,000 birds will be culled.

Chief veterinary officer Dr Robery Huey has said it is the first ever HPAI incursion in a poultry flock in Northern Ireland.

He said the outbreak "has the potential to have a devastating effect on the industry".

Confirming the finding, Dr Huey said: "At the weekend, disease control measures were put in place at a holding in the Clough area, after initial results from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) suggested the presence of notifiable Avian Influenza (AI) in a commercial flock.

"The National Reference Laboratory has now confirmed that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, subtype H5N8 has been detected."

The department initiated disease control measures at the premises following the initial findings at the weekend and said the birds will be humanely culled on Thursday.

In addition, two linked holdings have been identified as high-risk contacts and, as a precautionary measure, will be included in the depopulation.

An epidemiological investigation is under way to determine the likely source of infection and determine the risk of disease spread.

Meanwhile, a further suspected case of notifiable avian influenza is being investigated at separate commercial premises near Lisburn, County Antrim.

Speaking about the second suspected case, Dr Huey said: "I have also initiated disease control measures in a holding near Lisburn, Co Antrim, after initial laboratory results from AFBI indicated the presence of notifiable avian influenza in second, separate commercial holding.

"These measures include the humane culling of the affected birds (approx 31,000) and the introduction of temporary control zones (3km and 10km) to mitigate for onward disease spread.

"Samples have been sent to the National Reference Laboratory to determine pathogenicity and strain of the disease and we await those results."

To date, there have been eight positive cases of the HPAI strain confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland, across five different locations.

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

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in place across Northern Ireland from December 1 to further enhance biosecurity measures, the department said.

A mandatory housing order has been in place since December 23.

Dr Huey said: "This confirmation of notifiable HPAI within poultry flocks here has the potential to have a devastating effect on the industry.

"It is vital that all the necessary steps are taken to prevent the further spread of this disease in Northern Ireland.

"All poultry keepers must urgently take action now to keep their birds safe and reduce the risk over the higher risk winter period.

"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."

  • Paul Reilly reports: