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ILT virus outbreak hits 250,000 birds in Northern Ireland

A free-range hen

AN OUTBREAK of infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) has been detected on 14 commercial poultry farms in Northern Ireland, according to the country’s Department of Agriculture (Daera.)

It is the first outbreak of the disease in commercial poultry for more than ten years, Daera told the BBC. Two backyard flocks are also known to be affected.

See also: Housing order remains for free-range poultry in the Netherlands

ILT is a highly contagious virus from the herpes group and a case was first reported in the country on 4 May.

Symptoms in poultry include lower production, gasping, coughing bloody mucoid exudate, rattling and extension of the neck, according to MSD Animal Health.

It has no known human health implications. In poultry, however, mortality rates can reach up to 50% in adult birds.

In addition to high levels of biosecurity, vaccination is an option for control in areas where the virus is present.

Plan in place

A Daera spokesman said: “Excellent biosecurity measures are absolutely vital in reducing the risk of  ILT spread. Litter has been identified as a key risk factor in infection spread, we are urging industry to keep litter trailers covered and store litter for as long as practically possible before spreading it.. 

“Whilst it is a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland, DAERA considers it a production disease and therefore no restrictions or actions at flock level are being carried out. The Department will continue to provide support to the poultry industry by providing practical advice through the various communication channels.

Daera veterinary officer Ignatius McKeown added there would not be a culling programme to control the disease.

“Daera has joined with poultry producers in forming a group to formulate a plan to react against this disease and put procedures in place to control the spread of the disease,” he said.

“People with infected flocks are asked to keep poultry litter on their premises as long as possible. The longer the litter is kept on the premises, the virus will reduce through time.”

The disease is notifiable, meaning that authorities must be alerted to any outbreak.