Bird flu ‘con­ta­gious’

The New Age (KwaZulu-Natal) - - News - KUTULLO MADISHA ku­tul­lom@the­newage.co.za

THE bird flu (avian in­fluenza) re­ported in South Africa is highly path­o­genic and ex­tremely con­ta­gious.

How­ever, the meat that is sold on the shelves is safe to eat as it has gone through a process of meat in­spec­tion and cer­ti­fied fit for hu­man con­sump­tion, Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries, Sen­zeni Zok­wana, said yes­ter­day.

He said a num­ber of trade part­ners had sus­pended trade of raw meat, eggs and live birds from South Africa, mainly be­cause ve­teri­nar­i­ans had to cer­tify that the coun­try was free of Avian In­fluenza and since last Thurs­day, they could not provide this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. How­ever, pro­cessed meat is con­sid­ered safe for trade and some coun­tries still ac­cept this.

“South Africa in­tro­duced the con­cept of com­part­ments in line with the World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health guide­lines – raw meat, eggs and live birds orig­i­nat­ing from th­ese com­part­ments have been ac­cepted by most trade part­ners,” Zok­wana said.

“Our team is al­ready in ne­go­ti­a­tions with th­ese trade part­ners to ac­cept our prod­ucts from th­ese reg­is­tered com­part­ments.

“We have placed the af­fected farms un­der quar­an­tine and the af­fected birds have been eu­thanased and the eggs de­stroyed. About 260000 birds have been culled,” he said.

The depart­ment was alerted by poul­try own­ers about the em­mi­nent threat of the flu when Zim­babwe re­ported it’s first case at the end of last month. It then called for all chicken keep­ers to ob­serve ba­sic biose­cu­rity mea­sures in or­der to pre­vent contact with wild birds.

“This can be achieved in com­mer­cial farms by im­prov­ing biose­cu­rity and in free range farms by sim­ply re­mov­ing feed and wa­ter from where it at­tracts wild birds,” he said.

De­spite the warn­ings, the dis­ease still man­aged to get into South Africa, Zok­wana said.

Two cases, one a broiler breeder farm in Vil­liers and an­other in an egg-lay­ing farm in Stander­ton, were re­ported since last Thurs­day. Both th­ese farms are in Mpumalanga.

He said no cases had been re­ported so far in any other prov­ince.

“There have been sev­eral calls to per­mit vac­ci­na­tion against the dis­ease. I have been ad­vised by my team of ex­perts that this will not be in the best in­ter­ests of ei­ther the coun­try or the pro­duc­ers.

“The vac­ci­na­tion of birds will cre­ate an en­demic sit­u­a­tion, af­fect sur­veil­lance ef­forts and af­fect our ex­port cer­ti­fi­ca­tion be­cause all our trade part­ners only want prod­ucts from a coun­try that is free of avian in­fluenza where vac­ci­na­tion is not prac­tised,” he said.

He said in or­der to con­tain the dis­ease they called for the ban on the sale of live chick­ens to man­age the fur­ther spread.

This trig­gered a na­tion wide con­cern since a num­ber of liveli­hoods had been af­fected. How­ever, this mea­sure was im­posed in the in­ter­ests of the coun­try and the poul­try pro­duc­ers at large.

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