Northern Ireland introduces new measures to combat avian influenza

Poultry and captive bird keepers told to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds

Owners of pet birds or commercial flocks in Northern Ireland will be legally required to keep their birds indoors from December 23rd as part of measures to prevent any possible spread of avian influenza.

The decision announced by the North's Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots was taken following the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI H5N8) in seven wild birds across Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

Under the new housing measures all bird keepers in the North will be legally required to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures. This applies to owners of pet birds, commercial flocks in addition to backyard or hobby flocks.

Such housing orders were introduced in England, Scotland and Wales on Monday (December 14th) following the discovery of 170 cases of avian flu in wild birds and 10 cases confirmed in poultry or other captive birds.


Disease control zones

In the Republic the HPAI H5N8 avian flu has been confirmed in 10 wild birds. Officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine also confirmed a case of the flu in a small turkey flock in Co Wicklow. Disease control zones were put in place around the infected holding.

Mr Poots said he took the decision in order to limit the spread of avian influenza. “It is now a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds. This decision was reached after extensive consultation with industry,” he said.

“This is another necessary precautionary step that builds on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were announced when the avian influenza prevention zone was introduced on December 1st,” he added.

The North's chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey urged all flock keepers to take action now to improve biosecurity so as to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza to poultry or other captive birds.

“I would like to remind bird keepers that an outbreak of avian influenza in a small backyard flock will impose the same restrictions on movements of birds as if it was found on a commercial farm,” he said.

Poultry and captive bird keepers also were advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times