Other cases suspected as H5N8 is confirmed in second NI commercial flock

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Robert Huey, has warned the department is testing “a number of” other suspected cases as he confirmed that notifiable avian influenza, subtype H5N8 has been found in a second poultry flock in Northern Ireland.

Confirming the finding at a commercial holding near Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Dr. Huey said: “A second suspect case of notifiable avian influenza was reported to the department last week.

“After initial results from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) suggested the presence of notifiable avian influenza, I put strict disease control measures in place in the area, including Temporary Control Zones (3km and 10km) to mitigate against onward disease spread and 31,000 birds were humanely culled at the premises.

The National Reference Laboratory has now confirmed that H5N8 has been detected. This is Northern Ireland’s second H5N8 case ever in a poultry flock.

Last week, Dr. Huey confirmed Northern Ireland’s first-ever case of H5N8 at a 30,000-bird commercial premises in Clough.

The incident resulted in the cull of 80,000 birds as the decision was made to also depopulate two linked sites.

In addition, the department confirmed it has been investigating “a number” of other suspect cases across the region.

‘A worrying and dangerous time for our poultry sector’

Speaking about the recent developments, Dr. Huey said: “While I have now confirmed Northern Ireland’s second-ever case of H5N8 in domestic poultry, we are also investigating reports of further suspicious outbreaks of disease across the region.

Flock keepers are rightly alarmed and, as chief veterinary officer, I am extremely concerned about the serious risk of spread.

This is a worrying and dangerous time for our poultry sector as we are in the middle of the migratory wildfowl season, but we can take urgent and proven actions that will protect our flocks, and protect our economy.

“While we complete our epidemiological investigation to determine the likely source of infection and the risk of disease spread on the two avian influenza confirmed holdings, I am imploring all flock keepers – from those who keep half a dozen chickens in their garden, to those who have thousands of birds – play your part, review your biosecurity measures and take whatever extra precautions you can to protect your birds from infection. #

“Neither you, nor I, want a repeat of the scenes at the two confirmed holdings – it’s been a very difficult and testing time for the farm families involved.”

‘Not a test run’

To date, there have been eight positive cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland across five different locations.

There have also been recent detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Britain, in addition to detections in the Republic of Ireland.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in place across NI since December 1 to further enhance biosecurity measures and a mandatory housing order has been in place since December 23.

Dr. Huey continued: “This breach of Northern Ireland’s commercial flocks’ biosecurity should sound as an alarm bell for the entire poultry sector.

This is not a test run, it is not a warning, you must take action now to prevent further outbreaks – otherwise your flock could be the next confirmed avian influenza case.

“I am urging everyone to critically review and improve where necessary their biosecurity arrangements, remaining alert for any signs of disease.

“If you are concerned about the health of your birds in any way please report it to DAERA immediately.”

The advice from public health officials is that the risk to public health from these strains of Avian Influenza is very low. The Food Standards Agency advises that Avian Influenza poses a very low food safety risk.