Northern Ireland

First NI bird flu case found in County Derry wild swan

swan
Image caption The swan (not pictured) was reported by a member of the public to a dead wild bird surveillance programme

The first case of bird flu has been confirmed in Northern Ireland.

The avian influenza strain H5N8 was discovered in a dead wild swan near Lough Beg, County Londonderry.

The swan was reported by a member of the public as part of the Department of Agriculture's dead wild bird surveillance programme.

Initial testing has indicated the presence of the H5N8 strain of bird flu. However, the department has said the risk to the public is very low.

There have been multiple confirmed cases of bird flu among wild and farmed birds in Great Britain in recent months.


Analysis - Conor Macauley, BBC News NI's environment correspondent

Avian influenza is a contagious disease that affects birds, including poultry: It can spread quickly, often proving fatal.

It can occur in both wild and farmed birds, but the threat to the public is said to be very low.

Officials have been on alert for the disease since cases were confirmed in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Since last month it has been compulsory for owners of chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks to house them.

Where it's impractical, measures must be put in place to separate them from wild birds.

Owners of commercial poultry flocks have been urged to step up their biosecurity measures.


There have also been two confirmed cases among wild birds in the Republic of Ireland in the last six weeks - in County Wexford on 28 December and County Galway on 13 January.

Robert Huey, Stormont's chief veterinary officer, said the finding of bird flu in Northern Ireland was "not unexpected" and that it was "possible that more cases will be confirmed".

He added: "Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low."

He added that bird keepers must "remain vigilant" and guard against their flocks becoming infected.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has extended a prevention zone until March that requires all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to keep them indoors and away from wild birds.

The Ulster Farmers' Union chairman Tom Forgrave urged all poultry keepers to ensure "biosecurity measures are in place and are as robust as possible".

The Food Standards Agency said that on the basis of current scientific evidence, bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.

"The risk of getting bird flu through the food chain is very low," it added.

"Some strains of avian influenza can pass to humans, but this is very rare.

"It usually requires close contact between the human and infected live birds."

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