The occurrence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8 virus) has been confirmed at two farms in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, bringing the number of infected farms in South Africa to four.
According to a press release from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the state veterinarian has already placed the affected farms under quarantine.
The quarantine includes a prohibition on the movement of chickens and chicken products to and from the farms. Strict measures are also in place to contain and eliminate the disease as efficiently as possible.
“Forward tracing was done and cull chicken depots were identified, which had received live cull chickens from one of the affected farms in the last 21 days. The records of these cull depots are being followed up to trace as many of these chickens as possible. The new Poultry Disease management Agency (PDMA) system of registration of persons buying and selling live chickens made it possible to trace these culls,” said the department.
According to the department, there is an increase in the surveillance of wild birds, commercial chickens and backyard chickens. It said chicken owners, farmers and the public should remain on high alert and it encourages the public to report all cases of high mortality in chickens and other birds to the nearest state veterinarian.
The H5N8 virus does not affect humans. However, the public is advised to avoid gathering chickens for shows, auctions and similar activities.
If these activities do continue, the organisers are advised to liaise with state veterinarian authorities. Action houses must also be registered with the PDMA.
In an article on Bizcommunity Wessel Lemmer, senior agricultural economist at Absa Agribusiness, writes the outbreak comes at a bad time for the already troubled South African poultry industry. The industry planned on an increase in production and exports after heavy drought conditions and following an increase in feed prices, which resulted in a shortfall.
“As a result of the outbreak, exports will now be negatively impacted as neighbouring countries have imposed import bans.”
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