Bird flu ‘contagious’
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.