AUTHORITIES in Northern Ireland say they are investigating more farms suspected of infection following confirmation of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza on a second poultry farm.

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said the second breach should “sound an alarm bell” for the entire sector.

See also: Avian influenza: How to spot it and ways to prevent it

“This is not a test run; it is not a warning, you must take action now to prevent further outbreaks – otherwise your flock could be the next confirmed AI case,” he said.

“I am urging everyone to critically review and improve where necessary their biosecurity arrangements, remaining alert for any signs of disease.”

The latest confirmation marks only the second time ever that notifiable avian influenza has been found on a commercial poultry flock in the country – the first being a week earlier on an unconnected farm.

Wild birds

In addition, there have been eight positive cases of H5N8 in wild birds in Northern Ireland across five locations.

Dr Huey added: “While I have now confirmed Northern Ireland’s second-ever case of H5N8 in domestic poultry, we are also investigating reports of further suspicious outbreaks of disease across the region.

“Flock keepers are rightly alarmed and, as Chief Veterinary Officer, I am extremely concerned about the serious risk of spread.

“This is a worrying and dangerous time for our poultry sector as we are in the middle of the migratory wildfowl season, but we can take urgent and proven actions that will protect our flocks, and protect our economy.”