The highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu could still be circulating in Ireland’s seabird populations as the Department of Agriculture has stopped collecting birds from coastal counties for surveillance purposes.

The Department said it has gathered sufficient evidence to suggest the disease is in these populations but surveillance protocols continue in inland counties.

The disease was confirmed in wild birds in Roscommon, Tipperary and Westmeath as recently as March 2023, the most recent month for which data is available.

There have been no cases reported in Ireland’s poultry units after the removal of two H5N1 positive turkey flocks in November 2022, both of which were located in Co Monaghan.

Although the poultry housing order issued in November 2022 was lifted last month, the legal requirement to maintain best-practice biosecurity measures remains in place.

Over 50m birds were culled on poultry units throughout Europe since October 2021 in the largest-ever recorded avian influenza epidemic, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).