Avian Influenza situation in the Western Cape
Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected on a layer farm near George. The affected birds are being culled and eggs are disposed of.
This follows recent reports of similar outbreaks at five properties in a small area overlapping the West Coast and Cape Winelands district municipalities, which led to the culling of approximately 1,3 million birds.
The Western Cape has about 5,7 million birds in production and about 25% of birds were therefore lost.
Western Cape Head of Agriculture Dr Mogale Sebopetsa has urged producers to be vigilant.
Sebopetsa: “Producers should continue to be vigilant, investigate any abnormal mortalities, and ensure their poultry do not have any contact with wild birds or their excretions.
Avian Influenza is a viral respiratory disease of birds believed to be transmitted by wild migratory birds. In Southern Africa, the H5N1 strain of the disease is currently affecting the poultry industry.
Veterinary services officials of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture immediately instituted measures to control and curtail its spread.
Dr Laura Roberts, State Veterinarian, says that “farms diagnosed with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) are quarantined by Veterinary Services, in line with the Animal Diseases Act” and adds that, “all affected poultry and their products must be destroyed”.
Roberts highlights that while the outbreak may cause shortages of poultry products, products available at grocery stores originate from unaffected farms and are safe for consumption.
Sebopetsa: “In addition, we advise particular caution when handling or slaughtering potentially infected poultry; gloves, a mask and eye protection should be worn.”
“While the risk of spread of avian influenza to humans is very low, we recommend that anyone who has had close contact with a bird with suspected or confirmed avian influenza, and has developed flu-like symptoms, should go to their local health facility for testing, and inform the staff about possible exposure to avian influenza virus”, concluded Sebopetsa.
Avian Influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds, or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials. The virus is present in the faeces of infected birds and in discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes. The virus can spread into domestic flocks kept outdoors through faecal contamination from wild birds, whereas infection among indoor flocks is spread via airborne discharges and faeces.
General recommendations to combat the disease include the following:
- It is very important to report sick or dead birds - both wild birds and poultry - to local authorities (veterinary services, public health officials, community leaders etc.) Details of local state veterinarians can be found at: http://www.elsenburg.com/services-and-programmes/veterinary-services-0#s=Animal-Health-and-Disease-Control
- Farmers and poultry producers should remain vigilant on their biosecurity measures in order to prevent potential virus introduction from wild birds or their faeces.
- It is important to keep poultry and other animals away from wild birds and their body fluids, through screens, fencing or nets.
- Commercial poultry operations and backyard poultry owners should avoid the introduction of the virus through contaminated clothes, footwear, vehicles or equipment used in waterfowl hunting.