Northern Ireland farmers told to 'step up' bird flu biosecurity

Push comes just days after measures lifted
calendar icon 13 June 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

All bird and poultry keepers in Northern Ireland have been told to "immediately step up" biosecurity measures just days after the government removed all avian influenza measures, according to a press release from the British Free Range Egg Producers Association.

The call comes after avian influenza was detected in samples of dead black headed gulls, reported at four locations: Belfast Harbour, Comber, Coalisland and Magherafelt.

The findings at locations near Lough Neagh present the greatest concern, the Department of Agriculture (DAERA) said, as they are in close proximity to high density areas of commercial poultry farms.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland's Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), in place to combat the UK's worst ever outbreak of avian influenza, was lifted.

DAERA said at the time that the government was in "a position to lift the AIPZ and reduce all mandatory restrictions placed on bird keepers."

However, in light of the most recent confirmations in wild birds, the department has increased the likelihood of incursion into kept flocks.

Northern Ireland’s chief vet, Dr Robert Huey, said all bird and poultry keepers should "immediately step up their biosecurity measures and remain vigilant against the latest threat of avian influenza."

“While the department lifted the AIPZ on 2 June, the confirmation of HPAI in four locations is a stark warning to us all that AI is a constant and dynamic threat," Huey said. "We must remain cautious of the potential for this persistent disease to spread more widely to other species of wild birds and even enter our kept domestic flocks.

“It is imperative that biosecurity measures are the first thing you think about every morning, and the last thing you think about at night – check, check and re-check what you are doing," he added.

The scale of avian influenza outbreaks across the UK and Europe have been unprecedented, with over 350 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021.

The AIPZ in England, Scotland and Wales remains in place.

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