Bird flu: SA bans sale of live chickens - for now | Fin24

Bird flu: SA bans sale of live chickens - for now

Jun 29 2017 10:33
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – The sale of live chickens in South Africa has been suspended until South African veterinarians can verify that the country’s chickens are free from the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza, said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

At a media briefing on Thursday, the Minister announced the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ interventions following the first ever outbreak of the feared H5N8-strain of bird flu on two farms in Mpumalanga.

Zokwana said the blanket trade ban will be in place for as long as it takes to declare the country free from the disease.

"This measure (to ban the sale of live chickens) triggered a nation-wide concern since a number of livelihoods had been affected, but this measure was imposed in the interest of the country and the poultry producers at large. I can assure you that it was not taken lightly." 

On Monday night the department confirmed a second case of avian flu in Standerton, after the first outbreak in a broiler breeder site near Villiers last Thursday.

Zokwana said no other cases of bird flu outbreak have been reported in any other province. 

The H5N8 strain, which does not pose a direct threat to humans, has already led to the deaths of millions of birds worldwide. Wild water birds play the biggest role in the rapid spread of the virus.

Zokwana said sellers of live chickens, including commercial farmers, as well as traders who buy and resell these chickens need to register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA).

Only registered sellers and buyers will be allowed to trade. He called on traders to make sure their counterparts are appropriately registered. 

Farmers may only sell live chickens certified as healthy by a veterinarian or animal health technician. 

Zokwana said the conditions apply to sellers of live broiler chickens, live spent layer hens, live spent breeder birds, point of lay pullets and any chickens that my fall into these categories. 

Altogether 260 000 chickens were culled and the two affected farms have been placed in quarantine, the Minister said.

He pointed out that the type of virus does not affect people and that the meat on the shelves are safe for human consumption, as it went through a certification process.

Although there have been calls to permit vaccination against the bird flu strain, Zokwana said it would not be in the best interests of South Africa and poultry producers, as vaccination will affect surveillance efforts and the country's export certification.

"All our trade partners only want produce from a country that is free of avian influenza where vaccination is not practiced." 

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