Animal diseases

There are many types of epizootic animal diseases. Two of the most well known in Northern Ireland are Avian Influenza (bird flu) and Foot and Mouth disease. Government has plans in place to deal with outbreaks of animal disease, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

African Swine Fever

There is also a risk of African Swine Fever (ASF) spreading from other infected countries into Northern Ireland, although so far there have been no cases reported in the United Kingdom (UK).

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs. In severe cases the disease generally results in a high number of deaths. Symptoms include high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea. ASF is a different disease to swine flu, although symptoms are the same. The virus does not affect people and there is no impact on human health. Find out more about ASF:

Advice for farmers and farm workers

Good biosecurity is extremely important and will help to stop the introduction of ASF into Northern Ireland.  If you keep pigs, you have an important role in preventing further disease outbreaks.  The feeding of any food waste of animal origin or food waste which has been in contact with products of animal origin, whether raw or cooked, is illegal in the UK.

Biosecurity measures are covered in the following leaflet:

Anyone suspecting African Swine Fever must report it immediately to their DAERA Direct Regional Office.

If African Swine Fever is confirmed it will be controlled in line with the African Swine Fever Control Strategy.

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.

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, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) website.

However, if you find either of the following in the same place you should contact DAERA 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 DAERA 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.

Find out more about Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) on the DAERA website.

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 DAERA website.

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


Rabies affects all mammals (warm blooded animals with backbones that produce milk and have fur or hair) including dogs and humans.

Rabies is a notifiable disease.  If you suspect a case of rabies you must tell authorities immediately. Failure to do so is an offence. 

Travel to affected countries

If you are travelling abroad and are worried about disease outbreaks in the area you can get the latest news and updates at the links below.

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 DAERA website.

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