Bird flu in Zim: be on high alert

The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) warned that South African chicken farmers should be very careful after the outbreak of the highly pathogenic bird flu in Zimbabwe.

The warning was issued by Kevin Lovell, CEO of SAPA, after an outbreak of the virus at a commercial breeding farm in Zimbabwe.

The official starting date of the outbreak was 17 May.

Lovell said the Zimbabwean poultry sector shares its information freely.

“We have access to the samples to do tests to determine the genetic line of the virus.”

The veterinary services at the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) were alerted on the 2nd of June of the outbreak and all imports of bird and chicken products from Zimbabwe were banned.

However, according to the department, South Africa imports very little poultry from Zimbabwe. All consignments from Zimbabwe are inspected very strictly at border posts.

Backyard chickens

Meanwhile veterinary services in Limpopo are on a high level of readiness with increased observation levels, especially with backyard chickens.

The department also asked anyone who owns chickens, geese and ducks to keep to minimum bio-security measures, like feeding animals indoors.

Preventative measures should also be applied to keep chickens from drinking from sources where wild birds are found.

Lovell said all involved parties, including government, the poultry industry, private veterinarians and academics held a meeting on 9 June.

South Africa already has a contingency plan in place and Lovell said it was updated with the latest available international information.

SAPA advised commercial farmers on the tightening of bio-security measures, like assigning staff to specific chicken houses, and to ensure foot bathes are applied.

Lovell also said any abnormal chicken mortalities should be reported to the relevant agricultural department.

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