Avian influenza (bird flu)
From Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Last updated on
From Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Last updated on
Avian Influenza, or bird flu, is a contagious and often fatal viral disease of birds. There is a constant risk of Avian Influenza being introduced into Ireland from wild birds particularly from October onwards each year as this is when migratory birds arrive and congregate on wetlands, mixing with resident species. Avian Influenza can affect many different types of birds including domesticated birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and other fowl.
There are two types of Avian Influenza which are named according to the impact that the disease can have on birds:
The Avian Influenza virus can spread in several different ways. Direct contact with other infected domestic or wild birds is the biggest risk factor for the spread of the disease. Other methods of disease spread include contamination of feed, bedding, equipment and vehicles with infected bird droppings or other material such as respiratory fluid. The virus can also be spread by people through contaminated clothing and footwear and insufficient hand hygiene practices.
Vermin or wild birds gaining access to poultry houses, feed or bedding storage areas can also lead to spread of disease. The disease has been reported on rare occasions in other animals including seals and foxes.
Good biosecurity is essential for the prevention of avian influenza in poultry and captive birds.
The main clinical signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in birds are:
Clinical signs can vary between species of birds. Chickens and turkeys can be severely affected with high mortality rates while other species (for example: ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.
See further information and photos of affected birds in the leaflet below:
Advice from the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine is that people do not pick up or touch sick, dead or dying birds and keep their pets away from them. Dogs should be kept on a lead in areas where sick or dead wild birds are present
Although Avian Influenza can be very contagious between birds, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSE-HPSC) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) advise that the risk to public health from the strain of Avian Influenza that is circulating is very low.
Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has determined that the disease poses no food safety risk to consumers of well-cooked poultry products, including eggs.
The HSE recommend that people in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl are vaccinated against seasonal human flu. Further information on the flu vaccine is available on the HSE website . People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl may avail of a free flu vaccine. It is important to note that the seasonal human flu vaccine does not protect against avian influenza. However, being vaccinated against seasonal human flu reduces the chance that a person could become infected with both the human flu and avian influenza at the same time which could lead to changes in the virus allowing it to spread more easily between people.
Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. If you have any concern that your flock has avian influenza, take immediate action. House or confine the birds away from other birds immediately and report the suspect case to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Contact your local Regional Veterinary Office (RVO) or the Avian Influenza Hotline on 01 607 2512 (9am-6pm).
Outside of office hours, you can ring the National Disease Emergency Hotline on 01 492 8026 (which is operational 365 days of the year) to report a suspect case.
Biosecurity is the combination of all measures, whether physical or through management, taken to reduce the risk of disease introduction to your flock and reduce the spread of disease between your birds and to other birds.
The Department advises that all poultry and captive birds should adopt strict biosecurity standards at all times, as outlined in the biosecurity guidance documents below in order to help protect their flocks against disease, including avian influenza.
Additional biosecurity legislation, introduced as of 19 September 2022 makes this advice a mandatory requirement, to help protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza. This regulation lays out the most appropriate biosecurity advice which should be followed to reduce the risk of an outbreak in Irish poultry and captive bird flocks.
Strict biosecurity standards, should remain as best practice and help to protect your flock against all poultry disease, not just avian influenza.
Guidance documents which outline how poultry and captive bird owners can practically apply these new regulations is provided below.
The requirement to confine/ house poultry and other birds as a precautionary measure against avian influenza is lifted from 18 April 2023. However, flock owners must remain vigilant as there is still the possibility of the virus being present in the environment or being transmitted to their flock by wild birds.
Biosecurity measures guidance document to accompany Avian Influenza (Biosecurity measures) Regulations 2022
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine’s primary function in relation to Avian Influenza is to help protect and to control outbreaks of the disease in poultry and captive birds.
The Department carries out Avian Influenza surveillance testing throughout the year in wild birds to understand if the disease is present in the wild bird population. Where HPAI is confirmed in a particular location, to inform the epidemiological situation, it may not be necessary to collect further samples.
The Department monitors the Avian Influenza disease situation in wild birds to inform the risks presented to poultry and captive birds.
If you find a sick or dead wild bird which is included on the List of Target Species for Avian Influenza Surveillance , you can report it to us using the Avian Check Wild Bird Application . Even where birds are not collected, this information is useful as it helps us to understand the disease situation in wild bird populations.
Sick or dead wild birds can also be reported to us by phone:
Animals that are considered to be wild, that being that they are not under the care or control of any person, are not required under legislation to be provided for in terms of immediate veterinary treatment nor intervention from landowners.
An online interactive map viewer of the location of confirmed cases of avian influenza subtype H5N1 in captive and wild birds in Ireland (courtesy of the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD)
Disposal of dead wild birds on land
If you find a sick or dying wild bird, these can be reported to the relevant local authority in the case of publicly owned lands or the landowner in the case of privately owned lands.
Where dead birds are on public land, it is the responsibility of the local authority to safely dispose of the carcases. Where dead wild birds are not required for surveillance purposes, the routine collection of dead birds rests with the landowner.
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials have been working with local authorities in relation to dead wild birds found on their lands and their responsibilities as landowners. Any decisions in that regard are for the local authorities in conjunction with public health colleagues in the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Disposal of dead wild garden birds at domestic premises
Current advice from the HSE-HPSC is that members of the public should not touch or pick up dead birds. If this is unavoidable:
Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap after coming into contact with any animal and do not touch any sick or dead birds. You should wash hands, nails and forearms thoroughly with soap and water after handling the dead bird.
Anyone who keeps poultry in Ireland (even 1 or 2 birds) must register their premises with the Department of Agriculture. This is a legal requirement under S.I. No. 114/2014 (Control on places where poultry are kept Regulations 2014).
Registering your premises and flock details is important, as it enables the Department to contact you, where necessary, with information on poultry health and welfare in the event of a disease threat such as avian influenza.
More information on general registration of poultry premises can be found at:
Two outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza subtype H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) in poultry in Ireland were confirmed during 2022. The outbreaks occurred in Co. Monaghan and were confirmed on November 14 and 22, 2022. Following the outbreaks, restriction zones consisting of a Protection Zone (3km minimum radius) and a Surveillance Zone (10km minimum radius) were introduced to mitigate the spread of the virus. The restriction zones have been lifted as of December 22, 2022.
Number of confirmed cases of avian influenza in wild birds in Ireland by month (2021/2022 season)