The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has confirmed that a wild swan found dead at Lough Beg, Co Derry, has tested positive for bird flu.

The bird tested positive for the strain H5N8.

Chief veterinary officer for Northern Ireland Dr Robert Huey said: “I can confirm that a case of avian influenza has been detected in a wild bird found at Lough Beg and that preliminary results from AFBI indicate H5N8.

“Further testing of the mute swan is being undertaken at AFBI and samples have been sent to the national reference laboratory, Weybridge, for further analysis,” he said.

Dr Huey said the detection in Northern Ireland is not surprising as there have been two recent confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry in Britain.

“There have also been three confirmed cases of H5N8 in wild birds across England and a falcon in Co Limerick has tested positive in recent days. In addition, the risk of an avian influenza incursion to the UK increases over the winter months from migrating wild birds,” he said.

Prevention zones

An avian influenza prevention zone was declared across Britain on 11 November 2020 in response to recent cases.

Dr Huey said the zone will introduce more stringent biosecurity measures to help prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds or another source.

“The risk level in Northern Ireland to poultry is assessed as moderate, with biosecurity levels on individual sites a crucial mitigation factor. Veterinary officials continue to monitor the situation across Britain and the Republic of Ireland and in consultation with stakeholders will determine the necessary next steps to mitigate for an avian influenza incursion in poultry here,” he said.


Dr Huey has reminded bird owners of the need to continue to deploy effective biosecurity measures.

“I would re-emphasise the need for all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, to take action now and carefully consider and improve biosecurity to reduce the risk of transmission of disease to their flocks.

“If avian influenza were to enter our Northern Ireland flock, it would have a significant impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy. All keepers of birds should critically review and improve their biosecurity measures where necessary in order to keep their birds safe.”

The advice from public health officials is that the risk to public health from this strain of avian influenza is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk.

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must, by law, report it to their local DAERA Direct Office.

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