An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will come into effect in Nothern Ireland from midnight tonight (December 1).

The AIPZ places a legal requirement on all flock-keepers to meet stringent biosecurity measures. This applies to pet birds, commercial flocks as well as those with just a few birds in a backyard or hobby flock, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots confirmed.

It follows the detection of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 (HPAI H5N8) in five wild birds across NI in recent weeks.

And comes as cases of AI have now been detected in over 100 wild birds across Great Britain with five cases of the H5N8 strain being confirmed in commercial premises in England.

There have also been three reported cases in wild birds in the Republic of Ireland, where similar measures are also set to be introduced on December 1.

Announcing the introduction of the AIPZ, Minister Poots said: “In recent weeks the department has detected highly-pathogenic Avian Influenza in five wild birds across Northern Ireland.

It is clear that the virus is now present here and I have, therefore, taken the decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone from December 1 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.”

Chief veterinary officer for Northern Ireland Dr. Robert Huey added: “The risk of infection from wild birds will increase in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, particularly as H5N8 has been confirmed in wild birds here.

“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.

“The measures in the AIPZ are a legal requirement for all birdkeepers and include stringent, mandatory biosecurity measures to help prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds, or another source, to poultry, including:

  • A ban on bird gatherings;
  • A requirement that poultry or other captive birds are provided with food and water to which wild birds have no access;
  • Avoiding transfer of contamination between premises by cleansing and disinfecting equipment, vehicles and footwear;
  • Separating wild waterfowl (ducks and geese) from domestic species; and
  • Reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept.

“At this stage, there is no requirement for poultry to be housed, but this will be kept under constant review.

“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 NI flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy,” Dr. Huey concluded.