Bird flu confirmed in two more SA locations

11 July 2017 - 19:30 By Bekezela Phakathi
A contagious strain of bird flu is spreading through poultry in West Africa.
A contagious strain of bird flu is spreading through poultry in West Africa.
Image: Thinkstock Images.

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has been confirmed at two more locations in SA‚ bringing the total of affected farms to four.

The Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries confirmed on Tuesday that the two farms‚ all involved in commercial layer chickens‚ are in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The outbreak was first confirmed in June at another two farms in Mpumalanga. The affected farms were subsequently placed under quarantine‚ and the birds were culled and eggs destroyed.

Department spokeswoman Bomikazi Molapo said that the two latest farms to be affected have been placed under quarantine by the state veterinarian. The quarantine includes‚ as a minimum‚ a prohibition of the movement of chickens and chicken products onto and off the farm.

"The necessary measures have been taken to contain and eliminate the disease as efficiently as possible on both farms‚" she said. "Forward tracing was done and cull chicken depots were identified‚ which had received live cull chickens from one of the affected farms in the last 21 days. The records of these cull depots are being followed up to trace as many of these chickens as possible. The new Poultry Disease Management Agency system of registration of persons buying and selling live chickens made it possible to trace these culls."

The department reiterated that this particular strain of bird flu did not affect humans.

"[The] viruses isolated from these outbreaks are similar to the viruses isolated from Zimbabwe in June 2017 and from Egypt in 2016‚ which makes the likelihood of the involvement of wild birds high. Chicken owners and farmers are encouraged to prevent contact of their chickens with wild birds as much as possible‚" said Molapo.

Increased surveillance in wild birds‚ commercial chickens and backyard chickens was continuing: "Chicken owners‚ farmers and the public should remain vigilant and all cases of high mortalities in chickens and other birds should be reported to the nearest state veterinarian."

In June‚ the department introduced a raft of measures to contain the spread of the disease. Buyers or sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered abattoir will be subjected to conditions‚ including registering with the agency. Furthermore‚ farmers can sell only live chickens certified as healthy by a veterinarian or an animal health technician.

Namibia‚ Botswana‚ Zimbabwe‚ Mozambique and Zambia have all halted imports of poultry products from SA.