Disease control measures have been put in place in Northern Ireland (NI) following suspicion of notifiable avian influenza (AI) - or bird flu - at a commercial duck premises in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone.

NI's chief veterinary officer Dr. Robert Huey took the decision based on a number of factors including clinical signs; preliminary results provided by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI); and the recent confirmed cases of highly pathogenic (H5N1) bird flu in commercial flocks south of the border.

There have also been a number of cases of bird flu in wild birds in NI.

Dr. Huey said: "A suspect case of notifiable AI was reported to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs [DAERA] on Tuesday, November 30, and initial results suggest the presence of notifiable AI.

"That, alongside the recently confirmed cases in Co. Monaghan as well as a number of confirmed cases in wild birds across Northern Ireland, means that it is vital we act swiftly to try and limit the spread of any potential disease," Dr. Huey added.

He continued: "Therefore, as a precautionary measure, appropriate disease control measures have been put in place, including the humane culling of the affected ducks (27,000) and introduction of temporary control zones (TCZ) to mitigate for onward disease spread."

Samples have been sent for examination to confirm strain and pathogenicity. Should pathogenic AI be confirmed, the TCZ will be revoked and a 3km protection zone (PZ) will be set up, as well as a 10km surveillance zone (SZ).

Dr. Huey warned flock keepers to urgently take steps to protect their birds.

"Given this suspected incursion of notifiable AI, we cannot afford to be complacent. I am speaking to those who have half a dozen birds in the garden, right up to those commercial flock keepers with thousands of birds – act now," he stressed.

"You must adhere to all biosecurity measures to protect your flock. I am extremely concerned about the serious risk of spread and this is a very worrying development," Dr. Huey added.

The full scope and measures required within the TCZ are available on the DAERA website.