Large NI poultry flock to be culled due to bird flu fears

The Department of Agriculture is to cull a large poultry flock in Co Antrim after suspected bird flu was detetced at the commercial premises.

By Philip Bradfield
Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 6:28 pm

The department confirms that the 30,000 flock near Clough is to be culled and that it has also put temporary control zones in place around the premises.

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 also advises that Avian Influenza poses a very low food safety risk.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Dr Robert Huey has taken the decisions based on clinical signs and the initial results provided by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) as well as the recent detections of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 in a number of wild birds across Northern Ireland (NI).

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The flock is to be culled as a precaution

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

Dr Huey said: “The Department was contacted on New Year’s Eve by a Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) reporting suspicion of notifiable avian disease at a holding in County Antrim. Since then we have taken samples and initial results from AFBI suggest that notifiable Avian Influenza (AI) is present. We are now awaiting official confirmation from the National Reference Laboratory to determine pathogenicity and strain of the disease.

“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 (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 Northern Ireland from 1 December to further enhance biosecurity measures and a mandatory housing order has been in place since 23 December.

Dr Huey continued: “The actions taken to date in NI have helped to protect our 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 in Northern Ireland. 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 a self assessment tool is being made available on the DAERA website.

Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by the diseas must report it by law.