Vets probe bird disease outbreak, avian flu suspected

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The Department of Agriculture is investigating a suspected notifiable bird disease outbreak – possibly bird flu – on a poultry farm in County Fermanagh.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said its officials are currently investigating the suspected presence of a Notifiable Avian Disease (NAD) in a broiler breeder flock in the county.

“A private veterinary practitioner contacted DAERA on 2 January 2020 expressing concerns related to the increased mortality of birds at the holding,” he said. “DAERA immediately initiated a veterinary enquiry with a Divisional Veterinary Officer visiting the holding in the evening of 2 January 2020.”

Special restrictions have been placed on the farm and samples have been taken away. Testing for diseases including Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease is ongoing.

DAERA officials arranged a meeting with industry stakeholders on Monday this week to provide an update on the investigation and discuss potential next steps whilst results are pending.

“All bird keepers are urged to remain vigilant and if they suspect any signs of the disease in their flocks they must report it immediately to DAERA,” the spokesman said. “All bird keepers in NI are required by law to register with DAERA and a registration form can be downloaded from the DAERA website.

“All poultry keepers, including backyard flock keepers and those keeping game birds and pet birds need to act now and maintain high levels of biosecurity at all times in order to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their flocks.”

DAERA offers a text alert service for all keepers to receive immediate updates. Owners can subscribe by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.

The disease risk increases in winter with the arrival of migratory birds which can carry them.

Last month, the H5 strain of bird flu was detected at a commercial poultry business in Suffolk, resulting in the cull of 27,000 chickens.

Last month the Ulster Farmers’ Union said that while the risk was low, keepers should review their biosecurity measures and business continuity plans. The NI poultry sector annual turnover is about £709m and it employs almost 6,000 people.

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