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Confirmation of Avian Influenza H5N8 in wild birds in The Netherlands

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charie McConalogue T.D. would like to highlight to poultry owners the confirmation of two cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (subtype H5N8) in The Netherlands and emphasise the need to review biosecurity practises as we now move into a higher risk period for Avian Influenza.


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported worldwide and therefore risk to humans is considered to be very low. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.


The first confirmed case was identified in a mute swan which was found dead in the Groene Hart region of central Netherlands on 20th October and a second case was confirmed in a Eurasian widgeon on 26th October.  In Ireland, the avian influenza H5N8 subtype was last found in wild birds in 2016/2017 when it was confirmed in 12 birds, including Eurasian widgeons, mute and whooper swans and a grey heron. An early warning system is in place with Birdwatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils with regard to surveillance for signs of disease in wild birds.


At this time of year, wild birds which can carry avian influenza viruses traditionally migrate along the East Atlantic Flyway from colder parts of Northern and Eastern Europe to Western European countries including Ireland. Poultry owners in Ireland should be aware that the virus can spread from the wild bird population to poultry farms, through direct contact and in particular through faeces from wild birds infected with the virus. Biosecurity measures should be implemented to mitigate the risk of avian influenza in poultry flocks. In particular, flock owners are advised to feed and water birds inside or under cover where wild birds cannot gain access and suitable fencing should be placed around outdoor areas. This applies to all flocks, irrespective of size.

The Minister emphasised that flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office. The Department continues to closely monitor and assess the disease.


Notes for editors:

  1. Further information on avian influenza can be found here:
  2. Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.
  3. If you suspect disease in your own flock, notify the nearest Department Veterinary Office or ring the Avian Influenza Helpline: 076 106 4403 (Outside of Office hours:   1850 200 456).
  4. If you find dead wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey, do not handle the birds. Report the findings to the Department as above.
  5. A list of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offices and their contact details is available at:





Date Released: 28 October 2020