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More bird flu breaks out

Fol­low­ing an out­break of H5N8 highly path­o­genic avian in­fluenza re­ported by As­tral Foods on a com­pany farm in Stander­ton, Mpumalanga, more cases have been re­ported on com­mer­cial fa­cil­i­ties, in back­yard poul­try and in wild birds.

Poul­try pro­ducer RCL Foods be­came the lat­est vic­tim when it re­ported an out­break on the Viva farm near Mul­der­s­drift in Gaut­eng, a rel­a­tively small breeder fa­cil­ity. The com­pany says all chick­ens on this farm are be­ing de­stroyed and the fa­cil­ity quar­an­tined.

Dr Ziyanda Ma­jok­weni, di­rec­tor of SAPA’S Poul­try Disease Man­age­ment Agency (PDMA), says the As­tral farm is a breeder fa­cil­ity with 48 houses. One of the houses was said to have in­fected birds.

“The farm has been quar­an­tined and the na­tional and pro­vin­cial De­part­ments of Agri­cul­ture Forestry and Fish­eries have im­ple­mented the re­quired con­trol mea­sures,” she said.

De­spite the out­breaks on com­mer­cial farms over the past few weeks, Ma­jok­weni says the af­fected birds are still a very small per­cent­age of the to­tal South African chicken flock with very limited im­pact on the sup­ply of poul­try prod­ucts. In 2016 South Africa pro­duced ap­prox­i­mately 1 bil­lion broil­ers and ap­prox­i­mately 8 bil­lion eggs (24 mil­lion hens). The eggs grossed ap­prox­i­mately R10-bil­lion and broil­ers ap­prox­i­mately R37-bil­lion.

De­spite the disease hav­ing af­fected coun­tries in Europe, Asia as well as the USA since

2014, the lo­cal out­breaks are the first time the disease has been iso­lated in South Africa.

“SAPA, through the Poul­try Disease Man­age­ment Agency (PDMA) con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion closely and will con­tinue to engage with DAFF and other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers such as the South African Ve­teri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion (SAVA) on con­trol mea­sures for the disease,” she says. “Con­sumers are re­minded that this strain has been found not to be dan­ger­ous to hu­mans. This has been con­firmed by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health. The meat and eggs that are on the shelves are safe to eat as they have gone through a process of in­spec­tion and cer­ti­fied fit for hu­man con­sump­tion.”

Ma­jok­weni adds that the PDMA has re­quested all af­fected par­ties to fully co­op­er­ate to pre­vent fur­ther spread of the cur­rent out­break and to en­hance the disease man­age­ment ef­forts.

“Pro­duc­ers are once again urged to re­main vig­i­lant and en­sure that biose­cu­rity mea­sures are ad­hered to, to re­duce the risk of in­fec­tion,” she says. “The pub­lic are re­quested to re­port any sight­ings of wild bird or back­yard chicken mor­tal­i­ties.”¡

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