bird; poultry; avian; surveillance; vaccines

South Africa not quite free of avian flu

Outbreaks of the highly contagious H5N8 avian influenza virus in South Africa (SA) have drastically decreased in commercial chickens, but wild birds are still affected.

There have been a total of 120 reports since June 2017 until 11 January 2018, according to a report issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

From this, a total of 30 outbreaks occurred on commercial chicken farms, with 38 under ostriches, 25 under wild birds and the rest under backyard chickens, pets and garden birds.


The Western Cape Province reported the highest number of outbreaks at 87.  Since 31 October 2017, the province has not had any reports on previously contaminated poultry farms. A farm that was already under quarantine was contaminated in December.

Also read: Bird flu cause serious economic damage in SA’s Western Cape

The disease was still prevalent in wild birds in December and was detected in ostriches until November, although the birds are clinically healthy.

Dr. Ziyanda Majokweni, Director of the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) said it is still too early to say that the disease is endemic in South Africa.

Also read: Possible approval of vaccination for SA poultry against H5N8


Just like humans are prone to getting flu over the winter period, birds are prone to catching bird flu.

Prof. Celia Abolnik from the University of Pretoria is an expert on the disease and says various outbreaks of the highly contagious H5 avian influenza virus – some H5N8 and other H5N6 – have been reported in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is winter.

The outbreak is mostly occurring in wild birds, like swans. “Outbreaks have been reported in Europe, the Middle East, as well as in the Ukraine, Britain, Germany and Afghanistan in the last 2 weeks.”

Bomikazi Molapo, spokesperson for Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriulture, Forestry and Fisheries, said South Africa’s ban on the import of chicken from European countries where H5N8 has been reported last in 2016, is still valid in the meantime.

Also read: Keep highly pathogenic avian influenza out of your poultry

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