Vets probe suspected bird flu case in NI poultry flock

Authorities are investigating a suspected case of a notifiable avian disease on a poultry farm in Northern Ireland.

A private vet became concerned about increased mortality among birds in a broiler flock in County Fermanagh.

Tests are being done to see if it is avian influenza (bird flu), or whether the broilers died from another virus known as Newcastle disease.

See also: Avian influenza: One farm’s robust plans to combat the threat

Samples have been taken from the poultry farm to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast for testing.

A spokesperson for the NI Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) said: “Officials are currently investigating the suspected presence of a notifiable avian disease in a broiler breeder flock in County Fermanagh.

“Daera immediately initiated a veterinary enquiry with a divisional veterinary officer visiting the holding on the evening of 2 January 2020.”

Restrictions have been put in place on the farm as a precautionary measure. And poultry farmers and bird keepers have been advised to increase biosecurity.

“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 authority advised.

Suffolk outbreak

Last month, 27,000 chickens were culled at a farm in Athlington, near Eye, Suffolk, after the low-pathogenic H5N3 strain of bird flu was detected.

Farmers and bird keepers in Northern Ireland can subscribe to a text alert system operated by Daera for transmitting disease information by texting “BIRDS” to 67300.

What to do if you suspect bird flu on your poultry farm

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease and if it is suspected, poultry keepers must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

In Northern Ireland, keepers should contact their Daera direct regional offices or call the helpline on 0300 200 7840 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm).

In Wales, call 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, farmers should contact their local field services office. Failure to do so is an offence.

If the public find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, they should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77).

Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although clinical signs vary between species of bird.

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