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Animal diseases

Animal or ‘Epizootic’ diseases can spread very quickly. There are many types, but two of the most well know in Northern Ireland are Avian Influenza (bird flu) and Foot and Mouth disease. The government has plans in place to deal with outbreaks of animal disease, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Avian Influenza (bird flu)

Avian Influenza, or bird flu as it’s commonly known, is a disease of birds. Some types of bird flu can pass to people, but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between the person and infected birds.

Travel to affected countries

You may have heard of recent cases of bird flu affecting parts of Asia and Europe. There have been no human cases in the UK, but you may want to check if the country you are visiting is affected.

You can find the latest updates on bird flu and other disease outbreaks on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website.

Finding dead birds

In most cases if you find a dead bird in your garden you do not need to worry or contact anyone. If you need to dispose of it then you can find advice on the safest way to do this on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) website.

However, if you find either of the following in the same place you should contact DARD as soon as possible:

  • one or more gulls, waders, ducks, geese or swans (webbed feet, long legs or long neck)
  • five or more dead birds of any species (other than swans, gulls, waders, ducks and geese)

You will need to give DARD details of what you found and where you found it.

Advice for farmers and poultry workers

If you own or work on a poultry farm or a farm that keeps any kind of birds, you can find some useful advice on protecting your workers and yourself from bird flu on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSENI) website.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

Foot and Mouth Disease is an acute infectious disease found in animals. It causes fever, followed by blisters, usually in the mouth and on the feet of the animal.

It is possible for foot and mouth to pass to humans, but it is extremely rare. Even among people who work closely with affected animals.

Advice for farmers and farm workers

If you think any of your animals could be infected, you must immediately contact your vet or local Divisional Veterinary Office.

You should also take measures to prevent the spread of foot and mouth among your livestock. You can find out more on the DARD website.

You can also contact the DARD Helpline for any general queries or visit the DARD website for advice and the latest updates on the disease in Northern Ireland.

Dealing with animal disease outbreaks

You can find information on different types of animal diseases and the plans government has in place to deal with them on the DARD website.

More useful links