A CULL of commercial poultry is underway in Northern Ireland following suspected avian influenza on a holding close to Clough, in County Antrim.

Initial testing has suggested the virus’s presence, but formal confirmation from the UK’s National Reference Library has not yet been issued.

See also: Avian influenza: UK cases rise to 18

If confirmed, it will be the first time that bird flu has been found on a commercial flock in the country since a low-pathogenic strain was detected in 1998.

The farm is a pullet-rearing operation housing around 30,000 birds, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

A private vet raised suspicions on New Year’s Eve. The initial test results, and recent wild bird avian influenza cases in the country, drove the decision to cull the flock and impose movement restrictions.

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer, Robert Huey, said: “Given the level of suspicion and the density of the poultry population around the holding, it is vital that as a matter of precaution, we act now and act fast.

“I have, therefore, taken the decision to cull the birds as well as introduce temporary control zones around the holding in an effort to protect our poultry industry and stop the spread of the virus.

Eight cases in wild birds

“An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the likely source of infection and determine the risk of disease spread,” Dr Huey added.

“To date, there have been eight positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland across five different locations.

“There have also been recent detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Great Britain, in addition to detections in the Republic of Ireland.”