SA bans sale of live chick­ens

Avian flu out­break spreads

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Sandile Mchunu

THE DE­PART­MENT of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries (Daff) yes­ter­day placed a gen­eral ban on the sale of live chicken through­out the coun­try as the con­ta­gious H5N8 avian flu spreads to more prov­inces.

The de­part­ment moved to con­trol fur­ther out­breaks as Zim­babwe also banned im­ports from South Africa. Yes­ter­day it con­firmed cases of avian flu in Mpumalanga and Free State prov­inces.

Daff also re­ported the out­break of H5N8 bird flu on a com­mer­cial broiler breeder farm in Mpumalanga and said nearly 5 000 birds had died and the rest were culled.

“The af­fected farm has been quar­an­tined and culling of the af­fected an­i­mals has been com­pleted. The de­part­ment is con­duct­ing for­ward and back­ward trac­ing of move­ment of all poultry in and out of the farm in or­der to es­tab­lish the source of the in­fluenza. The de­part­ment has es­tab­lished a 30km con­trol zone in Mpumalanga and Free State,” Daff said.

Coun­try Bird chief ex­ec­u­tive Marthi­nus Stander said they had not been af­fected by the disease as yet, but was wor­ried about the im­pact it could have on its over­all op­er­a­tions. He said the com­pany had taken all nec­es­sary mea­sures to pre­vent any dam­age that may oc­cur.

“It is in­deed a se­ri­ous mat­ter, but if the out­break is suc­cess­fully con­tained to the cur­rent mag­ni­tude, the dam­age will not be ma­te­rial to the in­dus­try,” said Stander. “We stepped up bio-se­cu­rity at all our chicken and feed op­er­a­tions; in­creased surveillance meth­ods such as test­ing our own chick­ens, ru­ral poultry as well as wild birds and re­strict­ing move­ment of per­son­nel be­tween farms.”

The out­break comes as the poultry in­dus­try tries to re­cover from the worst drought in more than 30 years that has al­most brought it to its knees in 2016.

“The first out­break of the Highly Path­o­genic Avian In­fluenza (HPAI) H5N8 has been con­firmed in the Vil­liers area in the Free State,” Agri SA said yes­ter­day. “Farm­ers and poultry pro­duc­ers should step up their bio-se­cu­rity mea­sures in or­der to pre­vent po­ten­tial virus in­tro­duc­tion from wild birds or their fae­ces. It is im­por­tant to keep poultry and other an­i­mals away from wild birds and their sub-prod­ucts or drop­pings through screens, fenc­ing or nets. Com­mer­cial poultry op­er­a­tions and back­yard poultry own­ers should avoid the in­tro­duc­tion of pathogens through con­tam­i­nated clothes, footwear, ve­hi­cles or equip­ment used in wa­ter­fowl hunt­ing.” Agri SA said it was wor­ried be­cause there was no cure for HPAI H5N8.

“Cur­rent prac­tice in most re­gions of the world re­quires the culling of in­fected birds, not treat­ment, hence pre­ven­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant,” said Agri SA. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, hu­man in­fec­tion with the H5N8 virus can­not be ex­cluded, al­though the like­li­hood is low, based on the lim­ited in­for­ma­tion ob­tained to date.

Avian in­fluenza is a no­ti­fi­able disease in terms of the An­i­mal Disease Act, 35 of 1984. The H5N8 strain of avian in­fluenza, which is be­lieved to be trans­mit­ted by wild mi­gra­tory birds, has al­ready wreaked havoc in the poultry in­dus­try in Zim­babwe where hun­dreds of thou­sands of com­mer­cial birds have al­ready had to be culled.

The op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA) yes­ter­day said it would write to the chair­per­son of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­eries, Mach­wene Se­menya, to re­quest that she called min­is­ter Sen­zeni Zok­wana to brief par­lia­ment on plans to con­tain the bird flu.

DA spokesper­son An­nette Steyn said South Africa had never had an out­break of bird flu be­fore. “Cur­rently, roughly 19 000 chick­ens are sched­uled to be culled af­ter con­tract­ing the highly con­ta­gious virus while 5 000 have al­ready died,” said Steyn.

She added that given the pos­si­ble ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the poultry in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the os­trich in­dus­try, par­lia­ment must be briefed ur­gently on what plans the de­part­ment has in place to con­tain the out­break as well as just how far the flu has spread.

“Farm­ers stand to lose their poultry and this will neg­a­tively af­fect the coun­try’s chicken ex­ports, the last thing the South African agri­cul­tural sec­tor needs is to have its ex­ports seen as un­de­sir­able and, worst of all, banned,” Steyn said.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Chicks at a hatch­ery in this file photo. Avian flu has spread in Mpumalanga and the Free State and Agri SA said that it was wor­ried be­cause there was no cure for HPAI H5N8.

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