An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will be introduced in Northern Ireland (NI) from 1 December, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has confirmed.
The AIPZ places a legal requirement on all bird keepers in NI to follow strict biosecurity measures. This applies if you keep pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard or hobby flock.
The decision to introduce an AIPZ follows the detection of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 (HPAI H5N8) in five wild birds across NI in recent weeks. Further cases of AI have been detected in over 100 wild birds across Great Britain with five cases of the H5N8 strain being confirmed in commercial premises in England. There have also been three reported cases in wild birds in the Republic of Ireland where similar measures are also being introduced on 1 December.
Announcing the introduction of the AIPZ, Minister Poots said: “In recent weeks the Department has detected highly pathogenic Avian Influenza in five wild birds across Northern Ireland. It is clear that the virus is now present here and I have therefore taken the decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone from 1 December based on sound expert advice and in consultation with industry.
“This is a necessary precautionary step that requires all bird keepers to take appropriate action to review and enhance the measures to protect their birds from this highly infectious disease.”
Chief Veterinary Officer for NI, Dr Robert Huey, added: “The risk of infection from wild birds will increase in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, particularly as H5N8 has been confirmed in wild birds here.
“This introduction of the AIPZ is necessary to help prevent any contact that wild birds might otherwise have with poultry or other captive birds. It reduces the risk of contamination from the virus to food and water provided to poultry and other captive birds therefore reducing opportunity for the disease to spread between premises.
“The measures in the AIPZ are a legal requirement for all birdkeepers and include stringent, mandatory biosecurity measures to help prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds, or another source, to poultry, including:
- a ban on bird gatherings
- a requirement that poultry or other captive birds are provided with food and water to which wild birds have no access,
- avoiding transfer of contamination between premises by cleansing and disinfecting equipment, vehicles and footwear;
- separating wild waterfowl (ducks and geese) from domestic species; and
- reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept
“At this stage there is no requirement for poultry to be housed, but this will be kept under constant review.”
Full details of measures required within the AIPZ can be found in the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone declaration here: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/avian-influenza-prevention-zone-declaration-0
Dr. Huey continued, “I am urging all flock keepers, even if you keep just one bird, to take action now to improve biosecurity in order to prevent an incursion of the disease into our poultry flock. If Avian Influenza were to enter our NI flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.”
Please register your flock (however small) so that DAERA can reach you directly with future communications and updates. You can register by contacting your local DAERA Direct office or online via the DAERA website.
DAERA encourages all bird keepers to sign up to the text alert service simply by texting 'BIRDS' to 67300. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity.
Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese are also urged to strengthen their biosecurity measures in order to prevent further outbreaks of Avian Influenza. CAFRE are hosting a free webinar for small hobby keepers Wednesday 2 December at 7.30pm. Information on how to register is available on the CAFRE and DAERA web sites and the panel will provide practical advice on how to protect birds from Avian Influenza.
A biosecurity self assessment tool has been developed and is available on the DAERA website. This is a valuable means of helping bird keepers review, enhance and maintain robust biosecurity measures to protect their birds and also to comply with the legal requirements of the AIPZ.
The advice from public health officials is that the risk to public health from this strain of Avian Influenza is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that it poses a very low food safety risk.
Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must, by law, report it to their local DAERA Direct Office.