Northern Ireland poultry farmers have been urged to take action now to reduce the risk of their flocks contracting Avian Influenza.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer Dr. Robert Huey made the warning after confirmations of the disease in Kent and Cheshire this week.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strain H5N8 was confirmed at a commercial holding in Cheshire on Monday (November 2) and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI H5N2) at a smallholding in Kent on Tuesday (November 3).

A total of 14,000 birds will have to be culled between the two farms to limit the spread.

Minister Poots said: “Northern Ireland is currently free of Avian Influenza but these current cases being confirmed in Cheshire and Kent are timely reminders that it is a constant threat.

As we are now entering the high-risk period for the disease due to the winter wild bird migrating season, it is vitally important that all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, take action now to carefully consider and improve biosecurity to reduce the risk of transmission of disease to their flocks.

“If Avian Influenza were to enter any flock, including backyard or hobby flocks, it would have a devastating effect on the poultry industry and would significantly impact international trade.”

Northern Ireland chief veterinary officer Dr. Robert Huey added: “Following the confirmations of Avian Influenza H5N8 in Cheshire and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 in Kent, I would urge all poultry keepers to take action now to keep your birds safe and reduce the risk of disease over the high-risk winter period.

“Please continue to adopt good biosecurity measures on your premises and review business continuity plans. Remain alert for any signs of disease.

Should you suspect disease in your birds please report it immediately to your local DAERA Direct Office on: 0300-200-7840.

“I would like to remind all bird keepers of the need to register your flocks. This enables the department to contact you in the event of an outbreak of avian disease, giving you the earliest opportunity to protect your flocks.”