Bird flu in SA: 16 outbreaks since June
The Western Cape has become the latest province to be hit by a highly contagious strain of bird flu.
Sixteen outbreaks have occurred in SA since June this year‚ in Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday the presence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)‚ type H5N8‚ in two ostrich farms in the Heidelberg area.
“At this stage‚ it appears that the incidence has been confined to the two properties. Farms within 3km of the affected farms will be placed under quarantine and testing in the surrounding areas will continue‚” the department said in a statement.
Avian influenza is a viral respiratory disease of birds believed to be transmitted by wild migratory birds. In Southern Africa‚ the H5N8 strain of the disease also affected the poultry industry in Zimbabwe‚ where thousands of commercial birds have died or had to be culled.
There is currently no preventive vaccine used or treatment for HPAI H5N8. Current practice in most regions of the world requires the culling of infected birds.
This strain of the virus has so far shown no sign of being infectious to people. Ostrich and chicken meat on sale in retail outlets is safe for human consumption‚ the department said.
Bomikazi Molapo‚ the spokeswoman for Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana‚ said these recently detected outbreaks bring the total number of outbreaks to 16; eight of which were in commercial chickens‚ three outbreaks in wild birds‚ two outbreaks in commercial ostrich‚ two outbreaks in backyard poultry and one outbreak in birds that were kept as a hobby.
“The department has received requests to vaccinate and these requests are under consideration. As can be appreciated‚ all possible pros and cons have to be carefully assessed in order for a decision to be reached. At the moment‚ vaccination against highly pathogenic avian Influenza is prohibited for the long term benefit of the poultry industry at large‚” said Molapo.
Poultry vaccines can prevent healthy chickens from contracting deadly strains of bird flu. According to the department‚ vaccination of birds would create an endemic situation‚ affect surveillance efforts and affect SA’s export certification because all its trade partners wanted only products from a country that was free of avian influenza and where vaccination was not practised.
The department had applied for additional funding to deal with the disease control measures‚ including compensation for affected farms where applicable‚ said Molapo.