Two more suspect cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been identified in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has said.

Approximately 14,000 birds in a commercial poultry flock have been affected near Markethill, Co. Armagh and roughly 22,000 birds have been affected in a commercial duck flock in Coagh, Co. Tyrone.

Temporary Control Zones (TCZs) have been put in place, however these will be removed and replaced with 3km Protection Zones and 10km Surveillance Zones should the HPAI strain be confirmed after laboratory testing.

In a statement on these two new suspected cases, Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer Dr. Robery Huey said:

Unfortunately, notifiable avian influenza is strongly suspected in two further commercial flocks in Northern Ireland.

“This is now not only the largest ever outbreak of HPAI in the UK, but also in Northern Ireland, and we must do all we can to protect our flocks, protect our businesses and protect the economy.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is that flock keepers reassess all of their biosecurity measures immediately. Are they stringent enough? Are you reviewing them EVERY day? What else can you do to prevent an incursion?” Dr. Huey asked.

“Do it today, do not wait,” he said.

We have also received confirmation from the National Reference Lab that the cases in the commercial duck farm in Auchnacloy and the backyard flock keeper in Broughshane were both positive for HPAI H5N1,” added Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.

“We are at a critical point in the management of this outbreak. This strain of H5N1 spreads quickly and could wipe out an entire flock in a matter of days,” he said.

“I am urging all bird keepers to proactively assess your current biosecurity measures and re-double your efforts to keep this disease out of your flocks.”