The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has continued to confirm positive results for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds.
HPAI has now also been detected in two fox cubs along with wild birds in the Portrush area. While this is the first time mammals have been confirmed as having influenza of an avian strain in Northern Ireland, it is not unexpected. There have been findings of AI in mammals over recent months across Europe, Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland.
The most recent findings from Portrush were detected as part of DAERA's routine disease surveillance, and the laboratory has confirmed the strain of the disease as H5N1 in both the fox cubs and wild birds. DAERA is encouraging the public to keep their dogs on leads and keep pets away from carcasses, particularly in coastal areas. Posters have recently been issued in conjunction with local councils to reiterate this message.
The public is also being urged to report any findings of dead wild birds through the new online reporting form on the DAERA website. Since its launch almost two weeks ago, over 150 reports have been made by members of the public. This assists greatly with efforts to identify and mitigate against AI in Northern Ireland. The form can be found here: DAERA Dead Wild Bird Online Reporting Tool | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (daera-ni.gov.uk)
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has advised that human infections with AI are rare as it is primarily a disease of birds with the risk to the health of the general public being very low.
The current guidelines from the PHA are as follows:
- do not pick up or touch sick, dying or dead poultry or wild birds, and keep pets away from them;
- avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with bird faeces;
- avoid untreated bird feathers (such as those found in the environment) and other bird waste; and,
- maintain good personal hygiene with regular hand washing with soap and use of alcohol-based hand rubs.
For more information, please see the PHA Website. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also advised that there is a very low risk to public health from the consumption of properly cooked poultry meat or eggs provided appropriate hygiene measures are followed.
Not all dead wild birds will be collected for surveillance. Where dead wild birds are not required for surveillance purposes or other carcasses are found and not collected for surveillance purposes, it is the landowner's responsibility to safely dispose of the carcasses. Please refer to the DAERA website for further information on disposal.