The initial outbreak of avian influenza H5 on a layer farm on the East Rand of Johannesburg has now been identified as HPAI H5N1. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane African news agency/ANA
The initial outbreak of avian influenza H5 on a layer farm on the East Rand of Johannesburg has now been identified as HPAI H5N1. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane African news agency/ANA

Outbreak of avian flu on Joburg farm identified as HPAI H5N1 – SAPA

By Given Majola Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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DURBAN - The initial outbreak of avian influenza H5 on a layer farm on the East Rand of Johannesburg has now been identified as HPAI H5N1.

The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) said that while this was not the same strain that hit the industry in June 2017, they took any outbreak of HPAI to extremely serious and virulent.

For this reason, the poultry industry remained in a state of high alert. Quarantine protocols also remained in place on the farm concerned, as farmworkers were issued personal protective equipment daily, and the farm was being sterilised before accepting new layers.

According to Sapa, the company decided to cull all 240 000 hens to protect surrounding farms and the broader South African poultry industry. All biosecurity measures remained in place. The replacement cost of these hens was said to be R20 million.

"Most unfortunately, a second outbreak of HPAI H5 has been reported on a North West broiler breeder farm, which has culled 7 000 broiler breeder birds. The mortalities have been sent to Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute for analysis and sequencing."

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a notifiable disease that has to be reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which dispatches daily updates on notifiable diseases to all countries.

Countries had the right to cease trade imports from any country that had been identified by the OIE as having an outbreak of a notifiable disease.

Currently, Namibia has banned poultry product imports from South Africa’s Compartment ZA 18/500 (the defined area of the first outbreak), while Botswana and Mozambique have banned all poultry meat, eggs and feathers from South Africa, and Lesotho has banned eggs from Gauteng.

Dr Mpho Maja, director of Animal Health at the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development, was continuing discussions with all neighbouring countries to minimise the impact on local exports.

Sapa said it requested farmers and all keepers of poultry to urgently implement the highest levels of biosecurity protocols to protect not only their flocks, but the South Africa’s poultry industry.

This strain of avian influenza was first carried by wild birds, especially at this time of year when their natural migration northwards occurred. The public are requested to be on the lookout for dead birds and report these to their nearest state veterinarian.

Maja said he was working closely with the industry on the outbreaks of HPAI, and would decide regarding the movement of poultry when necessary.

Consumers were assured that eggs and broiler meat products were safe to eat, provided normal cooking protocols were followed – specifically, temperatures of above 60ºC were recommended.

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