An avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) will be introduced in Northern Ireland from midnight on November 17, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed.

The AIPZ places a legal requirement on all bird keepers in Northern Ireland to follow strict biosecurity measures. This applies if you keep pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard or hobby flock.

The decision to introduce the AIPZ in Northern Ireland comes following multiple detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in wild birds across Great Britain, with cases of the H5N1 strain being confirmed in captive birds and poultry in five different locations.

Announcing the introduction of the AIPZ, Minister Poots said: “The recent positive findings of H5N1 in wild birds in the Republic of Ireland suggest that the disease may already be present here in Northern Ireland.

“I have therefore taken the decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone from midnight November 17 based on sound expert advice and in consultation with industry.

“This is a necessary precautionary step that requires all bird keepers to take appropriate action to review and enhance the measures to protect their birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Avian influenza impact on poultry industry

Chief veterinary officer for NI, Dr. Robert Huey, added: “This introduction of the AIPZ is necessary to help prevent any contact that wild birds might otherwise have with poultry or other captive birds.

“It reduces the risk of contamination from the virus to food and water provided to poultry and other captive birds therefore reducing opportunity for the disease to spread between premises. 

“I am urging all flock keepers, even if you keep just one bird, to take action now to improve biosecurity in order to prevent an incursion of the disease into our poultry flock. 

“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.”

DAERA encourages people to register their flock (however small) so that it can reach them directly with future communications and updates.

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must, by law, report it to their local DAERA Direct Office.