South Africa hit by avian flu

Source: South Africa hit by avian flu | The Herald June 24, 2017

Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
South Africa has been hit by avian influenza leaving thousands of birds dead, as Zimbabwe works with the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Crisis Management Centre to review its systems following an outbreak which killed 140 000 birds at Irvine’s (Pvt) Limited with the white meat and egg sub-sector under quarantine.

Government is in the process of mounting a risk-based survey of the wild bird populations to establish possible primary source of the avian influenza with an external international specialist support team to provide backup and further enlighten on the outbreak and impact.

The Department of Veterinary Services director, Dr Josphat Nyika yesterday confirmed the outbreak of avian influenza in South Africa and said Zimbabwe remained on high alert.

“South Africa has been affected by avian influenza. The highly-pathogenic disease is spread by migratory birds and we cannot tell who is next to be hit by disease.

“We remain on high alert although no new cases have been recorded since the outbreak at a farm in Beatrice early June. We continue on emergency response by reinforcing the quarantine measures, monitoring the situation through intensified surveillance and communication with the public. Our teams are on the ground monitoring the situation. Currently, we have a team from the Crisis Management Centre who are assisting us reviewing our systems,” he said.

In a statement on Thursday, the South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed an avian influenza outbreak.

“The South African Veterinary Authority was today (Thursday) notified of high mortalities on a breeder flock in Villiers close to Mpumalanga Provincial border. Samples were collected on the farm and have yielded a positive result for a highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8.

“The department has agreed with the company to euthanise the birds in affected houses in collaboration with the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA),” read the statement.

“The affected property has 12 self contained sites with a total of approximately 285 000 birds, and so far only one self contained site with approximately 24 000 birds has been affected. As part of the emergency response, the farm has been placed under quarantine and veterinary services will continue to monitor the farm,” read the statement.

The Mpumalanga veterinary authorities are on the farm assisting with quarantine implementation, culling and disinfection of the farm.

The affected farm is on the banks of the Vaal River and it is suspected that wild birds may be involved.

Avian influenza is carried by live birds which make it difficult to control and contain to a particular area.

“We have intensified our early detection and requested owners to enhance their bio-security in order to prevent contact with wild birds. Vaccination against avian influenza is prohibited by law. There are several reasons for not allowing vaccination of chickens and the most pertinent are that vaccinated birds mask the diseases and therefore create an endemic situation; surveillance for absence of disease is also impossible in vaccinated birds as they all test positive.

“The department has sent out notices to all poultry owners, outlining the bio-security measures they have to take and detailing how the surveillance will be conducted,” read the SA statement.