The first case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 in wild birds was confirmed in Co Limerick on 10 November 2020.

Since then, Ireland has confirmed HPAI in 30 wild birds, species including whooper swans, mute swans, barnacle goose, curlew, cormorant, knots and peregrine falcons.

The cases have been confirmed in the counties of Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Wexford and Wicklow.

The Monaghan cases were detected in the Ballybay area and included three mute swans and most recently a cormorant, confirmed on 23 December 2020.

Different strain

A different subtype of bird flu, HPAI H5N3 was confirmed in two knot birds which had been found on Clogherhead, Co Louth.

HPAI has been circulating widely in wild birds in Europe affecting 16 countries with more than 1,000 confirmed cases reported since the beginning of last November.

H5N3 subtype has also been confirmed in wild birds in Germany, France, Denmark and Northern Ireland.

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) advise that the risk to public health from both H5N8 and H5N3 subtypes of avian influenza is very low and that the disease poses no food safety risk for consumers.

Properly cooked poultry and eggs are safe to eat.

Biosecurity measures

However, infected wild birds can act as reservoirs of avian influenza viruses and spread the disease to poultry and captive birds through direct contact and indirect contact through faecal contamination.

On 1 December 2020, the Department of Agriculture introduced biosecurity measures which introduced a ban on bird gatherings.

In addition, a housing order was introduced on 21 December 2020, requiring all poultry and other captive birds to be housed or confined in a manner which prevents access by wild birds.