NI’S Chief Vet comments on Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) confirmation

Date published: 10 December 2019

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey has commented following today’s confirmation that Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) of the H5 strain has been found in mid Suffolk.


The strain was found in a flock of broiler breeder chickens at a commercial farm.

Dr Huey commented: “In Northern Ireland the risk to poultry remains low, however Avian flu is a constant threat to all poultry.  In the winter months there is always an increasing risk of disease incursion from migrating birds and were it to enter our Northern Ireland flock, it would have a significant impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.

“All poultry keepers, including those keeping game birds and pet birds need to act now and maintain good biosecurity at all times in order to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their flocks.

“All bird keepers are urged to remain vigilant and to alert DAERA if they suspect any signs of the disease in their flocks.”

Public Health advice is that the risk to the public from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made it clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

A detailed investigation is in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak and any potential spread associated with it. DAERA will continue to work closely with colleagues in Defra on this issue.

Notes to editors: 

  1.  Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is a less serious strain of H5 avian influenza. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The last confirmed case of LPAI in the UK was in Dunfermline in January 2016.
  2. As a precautionary measure, a 1 km restriction zone has been introduced by Defra around the affected farm.  In this area, poultry keepers are required to implement enhanced biosecurity measures. All poultry on the affected premises will be humanely culled.
  3. The restrictions in place mean that all premises with poultry and/or captive birds within the zones will span 1 km.  The movement of birds, mammals and other things, such as carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure, on or off premises where poultry is present and out of the zones are banned except under licence. No gatherings of poultry or the release of game birds are also allowed in the zones. Download more information on the restriction measures in place within the zones.
  4. 27,000 birds at the farm have been affected.
  5. Since June 2017, there have been no detections of avian influenza in poultry or kept birds in the UK. The UK has retained its OIE country freedom status since September 2017.
  6. Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If a type of bird flu in poultry is suspected keepers must report it immediately to the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or by contacting their DAERA Direct Regional Offices.
  7. If the public find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, they should report them to the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840.
  8. Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although clinical signs vary between species of birds.
  9. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  10. Download more information on biosecurity and how to prevent disease.
  11. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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