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Bird flu found on Western Cape commercial poultry farm

Aug 28 2017 19:17

Cape Town - The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza on a commercial poultry farm in the province.
 
The department’s veterinary services programme confirmed the disease has spread to a farm in the Paardeberg region. It said the cause is most likely contact with wild birds.

Since then, meetings have taken place between poultry veterinarians and stakeholders such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
 
Over 10 000 chickens have already died and culling of the rest of the farm and composting of mortalities has already been started.
 
The farm has been placed under quarantine.
 
The virus has not yet been confirmed as H5N8, which is the strain in outbreaks in other parts of the country. However, the H5 typing, and the nature of its effect on chickens, is indicative of it being the H5N8 strain. This strain of the disease has already wreaked havoc in the poultry industry in Zimbabwe, where thousands of commercial birds have died or had to be culled.
 
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said on Monday the virus presents a challenge to control due to the wild birds, but the vets are working hard to contain the spread.

"This is a priority for the poultry industry, and the entire agriculture sector. The outbreak and the current drought have made agriculture a tough space to be in. This is a particularly difficult time for those affected farms, which are important employers. This is why we ask all stakeholders to continue working with us to mitigate the impact of this outbreak on our economy,” said Winde.
 
In Heidelberg, three ostrich farms have tested positive. No birds have died on the farms. The affected farms remain under quarantine.

Poultry products

The department emphasised that poultry products available in supermarkets and stores do not pose a risk to human health as a result of this strain of avian influenza.

Control measures implemented include close monitoring of farms within a 3km zone of an infected farm, subject to control measures as laid out by the National Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

"It is strongly recommended that any movement of pet birds, racing pigeons, breeding birds and show birds be limited as far as possible and covered by a movement permit if coming from within 30km of an infected farm," the department said in a statement.
 
Sick or dead birds - both wild birds and poultry – must be reported to local state vets.

Exports of poultry and poultry products have been suspended except from poultry compartments registered with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, or where a country’s import permit contains clauses which can be signed by a certifying veterinarian.
 
Avian influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds, or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials.

The virus is present in the faeces of infected birds and in discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes. The virus can spread into domestic flocks kept outdoors through faecal contamination from wild birds, whereas infection among indoor flocks is spread via airborne discharges and faeces.

Last week Fin24 reported that about 16 outbreaks of bird flu have been reported in South Africa's poultry industry in recent years. Two of Astral Foods' farms in Mpumalanga, for instance, have been affected, costing the company R50m so far.

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