Suspected bird flu found at Castle Espie
Disease control measures have been introduced at Castle Espie in County Down after a suspected case of bird flu was found in captive bird samples.
A 1.9 mile restriction zone has been placed around the reserve, meaning all poultry and captive birds must be kept indoors or otherwise separate from wild birds.
Further tests are being carried out to confirm the strain.
Flock owners, from commercial to backyard keepers, have been advised to review their biosecurity measures.
The worst-ever outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 strain on these islands began in October 2021 and more than 180 cases have been confirmed throughout the UK in the past 12 months, including six in Northern Ireland.
But there have been no detections in commercial flocks since early February 2022.
Six incidences have also been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.
In the past 12 months, thousands of birds in owned flocks have been culled to try to limit the spread of the disease, which poses a severe threat to the poultry industry.
In England, 28 cases have been confirmed since the start of October 2022.
Environment Minister Edwin Poots said. “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.”
The Avian Influenza Protection Zone measures in Northern Ireland were lifted in June 2022 after seven months, although owners were advised to maintain strict biosecurity control measures.