Poultry farm in Western Cape records bird flu outbreak

The first case of an outbreak of Avian Influenza in poultry has been reported in the Western Cape, South Africa’s most southern province.

According to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, bird flu was confirmed on August 22, on a commercial Layer poultry farm in the Paardeberg region.

The H5N8 disease was confirmed in the Western Cape earlier this month on three ostrich farms near Heidelberg.

So far, about 10 000 birds have died from the disease, while the rest of the chickens on the farm will be culled and the mortalities composted. The farm is also under quarantine.

The specific strain of the virus has not yet been confirmed as H5N8, but according to a statement, the nature of the effects of the disease on chickens and the H5 typing indicate that the cause is most likely the feared virus.

The outbreak is another hit for the province. It is still struggling from a lingering drought which has already had an effect on job security in the agriculture sector.

According to MEC for Agriculture in the Western Cape Alan Winde, the virus is difficult to control.

“This is a priority for the poultry industry and the entire agriculture sector. The outbreak and the current drought have made agriculture a tough space to be in.

“This is a particularly difficult time for those affected farms, which are important employers. This is why we ask all stakeholders to continue working with us to mitigate the impact of this outbreak on our economy.”

Disease spread

According to the statement, the disease is most likely spreading because of wild birds’ contact with poultry.

The disease is carried in faecal matter and discharge from infected birds’ noses, mouths and eyes.

The disease is spread through direct contact between infected and healthy birds, or indirectly when birds are in contact with contaminated equipment. The disease can spread to domestic flocks that are kept indoors through the spread of airborne discharge and faeces, or to outdoor flocks via direct contact with wild birds.

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