All Avian Influenza Surveillance Zones in Northern Ireland will be lifted this weekend.

But Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has warned that the threat of an outbreak remains high due to the continued presence of infected migratory birds.

He announced that the remaining two surveillance zones were to be lifted on Saturday January 22, following the successful completion of all disease control activities and surveillance in and around the infected premises.

“These surveillance zones are the last local movement restrictions to be lifted and while this is very welcome news, the risk of avian influenza has not disappeared and we are certainly not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“I would like to thank the poultry industry for their incredible work so far in keeping the disease under control.

“There is no doubt that the efforts you have made have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus from those premises that were unfortunately affected and prevented any further incursions to date.

“However, it is now vital that complacency does not set in. Excellent biosecurity 24/7 remains the most effective way to protect individual flocks and our poultry industry from this deadly virus.

Bird flu
Mr Poots said bird keepers must follow strict biosecurity measures in order to prevent any further incursions (Joe Giddens/PA)

“The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) for the whole of Northern Ireland remains in place, which means it is still a legal requirement for all poultry and other captive birds to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

“As part of the AIPZ, bird keepers must follow strict biosecurity measures in order to prevent any further incursions.”

There have been five confirmed cases of avian influenza in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 81.

There are currently six confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland, of which the disease control zones of four extend into Northern Ireland.