A flock of poultry is to be culled in County Antrim following an outbreak of bird flu - the first time the disease has been found in a commericial flock in Northern Ireland since 1998.
It is understood around 30,000 birds are to be destroyed at the farm, which raises hens for egg production, with temporary control zones to be put in place around the site to prevent the spread of the disease.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey said his department was contacted on New Year's Day by a private vet reporting suspicions of bird flu at the farm. Samples were subsequently taken that suggested Avian Fluenza (AI) was present.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is awaiting official confirmation to determine the strain of the virus.
“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," Dr Huey said.
"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. An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the likely source of infection and determine the risk of disease spread.”
There have been eight positive cases Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland across five different locations to date, with further detections in wild birds, poultry and captive birds across Great Britain and Republic of Ireland.
Since December 23 a mandatory housing order has been in place for poultry flocks, which means they must be housed at all times, to prevent the spread of the disease.
Public health officials have advised that bird flu poses a very low risk to humans and food safety.
Dr Huey added: “The actions taken to date in NI have helped to protect our commercial flocks from wild birds. This incursion of suspected notifiable AI, however, reminds us all of how critically important it is to be vigilant and take all necessary steps required to prevent the further spread of AI in Northern Ireland.
"I urge all bird keepers to critically review their biosecurity measures and remind them that birds are now legally required to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.
“To assist all bird keepers in complying with the new rules we have developed a biosecurity - self assessment tool which is available on the DAERA website."