A second outbreak of bird flu has been discovered in a commercial poultry flock in Co Monaghan.
The outbreak, among a flock of broiler chickens, occurred in the same area in the south of the county where bird flu was detected in a 30,000-strong flock of turkeys on Saturday.
The outbreaks have left producers concerned ahead of Christmas. Fears are mounting that further flocks will be hit before processing begins in early December.
Hundreds of thousands of turkeys are expected to be dispatched to shops, butchers and supermarkets from the first week in December onwards – just over one week away.
On Saturday, the first flock of 30,000 turkeys was earmarked for humane culling after the avian influenza virus, H5N1, was confirmed.
On Wednesday evening the Department of Agriculture confirmed a second outbreak in a flock in the area. The department said the second flock tested positive for H5N1 and would also be “depopulated”.
It has set up a 10km restriction zone to control the movement of poultry and poultry products in the south Monaghan area and additional surveillance measures have been put in place. Authorities in Northern Ireland have also ordered all flocks to be housed indoors.
The virus has also been found in 49 individual wild birds across eight counties.
It is highly contagious among birds but there have been no reported cases of human infection and the risk to people is considered low.
Many turkey growers whose birds are set to peak in about 10 days are worried they are in a race against time to protect their flocks against infection through wild birds and get their turkeys to processors.
Ger McMyler who rears 3,000 turkeys on his family farm near Maynooth, Co Kildare, supplies turkeys to the Lord Mayor of Dublin's annual Christmas Day dinner for the homeless. He is the third generation of his family to produce turkeys and said "we will be doing what we can to keep wild birds out of the sheds over the next two weeks. It is hard to keep the odd crow out of the sheds, so it is a worry but we will be trying very hard."
The first reported infection of farmed poultry was confirmed last Friday, November 19th, which Mr McMyler said was about one month earlier than the first outbreak of bird flu here last year.
Since this outbreak the department has issued a housing order requiring all farmed poultry be kept indoors.
Mr McMyler's concern was reflected by Nigel Reneghan, chairman of the Irish Farmers' Association's (IFA) Organics Project Team. Mr Reneghan warned this week there was "a real possibility of turkey shortages" if the virus spread. Such an event would also result in massive losses for turkey growers, he said.
However Andrew Boylan, chairman of the IFA Poultry Committee, struck a more optimistic note. "I can assure you that we are in a position to deliver Bord Bia quality assured birds to all who want them," he said.
The department's National Disease Control Centre is monitoring the situation.