There has been an outbreak of an infectious disease in poultry flocks in Northern Ireland.

Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) causes laboured breathing, gasping and coughing of mucus or blood in birds.

According to DAERA, the viral disease has a typical mortality rate of 10-20%, although it can be as high as 70% in some cases.

A text message from DAERA’s veterinary service was circulated among poultry producers on Monday to raises awareness of the disease.

“A potentially serious viral infection has started to spread through NI poultry flocks. This respiratory disease can have a significant impact on production levels and cause increased deaths,” the message reads.

Media reports indicate that ILT has been confirmed in 16 poultry flocks in NI.

The advice from DAERA to poultry producers is to maintain strict biosecurity measures, similar to the steps that were in place over the winter to avoid avian influenza.

Transmission may occur through airborne particles and the virus can survive outside the host, so it can survive in the likes of poultry litter.

“Keep litter trailers covered and store litter for a s long as practically possible before spreading it,” reads DAERA advice.