Northern Ireland’s chief vet has confirmed that highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N8 has been found in a poultry flock at a commercial holding in Clough, Co. Antrim.

The department initiated disease control measures at the premises following the initial findings at the weekend and the birds will be humanely culled tomorrow.

In addition, two linked holdings have been identified as ‘high-risk contacts’ and as a precautionary measure, will be included in the depopulation. Approximately 80,000 birds will be culled as a result.

A second suspect case is also under investigation at a separate commercial holding near Lisburn, Co.Antrim.

First-ever HPAI case confirmed in NI

Confirming the finding, Dr. Robert Huey, said: “At the weekend, disease control measures were put in place at a holding in the Clough area, after initial results from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) suggested the presence of notifiable Avian Influenza in a commercial flock.

“The National Reference Laboratory has now confirmed that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N8 has been detected. This is the first-ever HPAI incursion in a poultry flock in Northern Ireland.”

An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the likely source of infection and determine the risk of disease spread.

Speaking about the second suspect case, Dr. Huey said: “I have also initiated disease control measures in a holding near Lisburn, Co Antrim, after initial laboratory results from AFBI indicated the presence of notifiable avian influenza in second, separate commercial holding.

These measures include the humane culling of the affected birds (approx. 31,000) and the introduction of Temporary Control Zones (3km and 10km) to mitigate for onward disease spread.

“Samples have been sent to the National Reference Laboratory to determine pathogenicity and strain of the disease and we await those results.”

To date, there have been eight positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland across five different locations.

There have also been recent detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Britain, in addition to detections in the Republic of Ireland.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in place across Northern Ireland from December 1 to further enhance biosecurity measures and a mandatory housing order has been in place since December 23.

‘All poultry keepers must take action now’

Dr. Huey continued: “This confirmation of notifiable HPAI within poultry flocks here has the potential to have a devastating effect on the industry.

“It is vital that all the necessary steps are taken to prevent the further spread of this disease in Northern Ireland.

All poultry keepers must urgently take action now to keep their birds safe and reduce the risk over the higher risk winter period.

“I am urging everyone to critically review and improve where necessary, their biosecurity arrangements, remaining alert for any signs of disease.

“If you are concerned about the health of your birds in any way please report it to DAERA immediately.”