Taking the lead in preventing avian flu
THE National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) is taking the lead in preventing avian flu from affecting its birds, the zoo’s manager of conservation and animal collections, Tracy Rehse, said yesterday.
She said this at a workshop, which discussed a possible outbreak of avian flu in zoos as well as its impact on human health.
“Although there have been no cases of this viral disease found among the zoo’s birds we are taking additional biosecurity measures to minimise the risk of our birds contracting avian influenza. We are also working with the authorities to develop protocols that will be implemented should any of our birds test positive for the virus,” she said.
Avian flu is not considered a zoonotic disease but could have the potential to evolve into a disease that is passed from humans to animals and vice versa.
Humans are considered to be a large contributor to the spread of the disease. Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild birds.
The workshop was hosted together with the Gauteng province One Health workshop, which consisted of provincial government, university professionals and staff of zoological gardens to discuss the latest outbreak of avian influenza.
Gauteng’s One Health team consists of the department of agriculture and rural development, Gauteng provincial health department, the University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. There are now 13 confirmed cases of bird flu in Gauteng.
Affected areas include Benoni, Vanderbijlpark, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. The first outbreak of avian influenza was detected in July on a poultry farm with three sites and a total of around 400 000 layer hens.
Last month Gauteng MEC for economic development, agriculture and rural development Lebogang Maile pledged to support the poultry industry to recover from the bird flu outbreak.
A team of experts has been deployed to all the affected areas to promptly eliminate the disease and revive the poultry industry in the province. A total of 77000 birds have been culled and more than 2 million eggs destroyed in a bid to curb the spread of the bird flu. One Germiston farm is under quarantine.
The provincial government is engaging the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to provide financial assistance.
SAFE APPROACH: The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa hosted the One Health workshop which discussed a possible outbreak of avian flu in zoos and the danger it poses to human health.