Avian Influenza Prevention Zone now in force in NI

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone now in force in NI

More measures to prevent the spread of bird flu in Northern Ireland are now in force, with the region now once again under Avian Influenza Prevention Zone restrictions.

Similar restrictions have been in place in the Republic of Ireland for a month and have now also been introduced in Great Britain.

In the past year the disease has been found in captive birds and poultry at more than 180 holdings across the UK and detections in wild birds have continued throughout the summer.

Most recently in Northern Ireland, samples from captive birds at the Castle Espie Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre in County Down were found to have the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strain, H5N1.

A 3km Temporary Control Zone was established, which became a Captive Bird Monitoring Zone and that was followed by the announcement of the Protection Zone from October 17.

That m,ans all bird owners in Northern Ireland must follow strict biosecurity measures that include preventing wild birds having access to the same food and water as poultry or captive birds, and mandatory rules on cleansing and disinfection.

While bird gatherings such as shows are not prohibited and it is not yet a requirement for poultry to be housed, Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey said this would be kept under constant review.

“I would encourage all flock keepers, even if you keep just one bird, to improve biosecurity in order to prevent an incursion of the disease into our poultry flock,” Dr Huey said.

“If avian influenza were to enter our Northern Ireland flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.”

Beginning in October 2021, this has been described as the worst ever outbreak of bird flu in these islands, with hundreds of thousands of birds culled.

While the risk to human health is low, the public is advised not to handle sick or dead birds.