A strict and well thought out exit strategy based on scientific findings seems to be the only option to protect the South African poultry industry against the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus.
This comes after the industry, which has already lost more than 600 000 chickens and thousands of eggs, asked the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to allow the vaccination of poultry against the virus.
None of the ostriches on the three ostrich farms near Heidelberg in the Western Cape which tested positive for the disease, has died or was culled.
The farms were put under quarantine and birds are continually tested. Mpumalanga, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and North West are the other provinces affected by the disease, with 24 outbreaks recorded countrywide.
This includes 10 commercial chicken farms, three ostrich farms, three outbreaks at backyard chicken farms, five in wild birds and three pet birds.
Dr Mpho Maja, National Director for Animal Health at DAFF, said if vaccination does commence, the department should be precisely aware of when and how the vaccination process is ended so that an endemic disease condition is not caused. About 15 years ago the department learnt expensive lessons when it allowed the vaccination of birds against the H6-virus.
The lessons learnt also put the country in a position to not make the same mistakes.
However, very few countries follow the vaccination route.
“Most countries were unfortunately not so successful to curb the disease through vaccination.”
Maja said DAFF is investigation the successes and mistakes other countries made to enable it to make the best decisions. Egypt is one of the countries which believe this preventative measure is a mistake.
The industry has handed in suggestions for vaccination, as well as for the importation of fertilized eggs to close the gap caused by culling.
Maja said the eggs will be imported under strict quarantine measures from Brazil.