South Africa hit by lethal avian flu outbreak
Gauteng has been hardest hit by the lethal HPAI H7 strain with 37 cases, while the Western Cape is the worst affected by HPAI H5
South Africa is dealing with an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) with 50 confirmed cases of the HPAI H7 and 10 of the HPAI H5 strains, the department of agriculture, land reform & rural development says.
The province hardest hit by the lethal HPAI H7 strain is Gauteng with 37 cases, followed by two cases in Mpumalanga, two in Limpopo, two in North West and one case in the Free State.
The department said 107,705 chickens had died so far.
The reported number of chickens culled at commercial chicken farms so far exceeds 1.3-million.
“Based on these reported figures, there has been a total loss of 1,426,226 chickens.”
The Western Cape has been the hardest hit by the HPAI H5 outbreak with seven cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. The number of chickens that have died from this strain outbreak is 98,249 while just over 1.1-million had been culled — a total loss of 1,254,532 chickens.
The department said the number of newly detected H7 and H5 PCR positive farms are increasing, and the industry “is requested to ensure the utmost biosecurity on poultry farms to reduce the risk of introduction”.
Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the department has facilitated the importation of fertile eggs for the broiler industry while registration of new vaccines is being fast-tracked.
“A similar request for the table eggs will be considered if received. We are also facilitating the transit to Eswatini of fertile eggs for their broiler production. With regards to vaccination, the department met vaccine registration regulators and the agreement reached is that the registration of vaccines will be fast-tracked, but the safety, efficacy and quality will not be compromised.”
Due to the high probability of the avian flu virus mutating and becoming zoonotic, Ngcobo said care needs to be taken on the quality and efficacy parameters of the vaccine chosen.
“The criteria under which vaccination will be permitted is almost in its final development, and only farms with good biosecurity and approved to vaccinate by the department will be given permission to vaccinate. The other requirements for vaccination will be surveillance to enable early detection of incursion and mandatory slaughter of vaccinated chickens.”
Farmers are encouraged to report any suspected cases of bird flu to the nearest vet.
“The basic measures should aim at preventing contact with wild birds, including their fecal material which can be transported in boots and equipment.”
Quoting the country's largest producer, Astral Foods, Reuters reported last week that South Africa faces chicken meat shortages in the coming months due to the bird flu outbreak and impact of load-shedding on the poultry industry.
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