Cape poultry farmers have been urged to watch out for 'quietness, depression' in chickens amid Avian flu cases in Gauteng. File Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency/ANA
Cape poultry farmers have been urged to watch out for 'quietness, depression' in chickens amid Avian flu cases in Gauteng. File Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency/ANA

Avian flu outbreak in Gauteng, but no cases in Western Cape

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Apr 15, 2021

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Cape Town - The provincial Department of Agriculture is closely monitoring flocks of chicken in the Western Cape following the SA Poultry Association’s (Sapa) confirmation of an outbreak of H5 avian influenza (AI) in Gauteng.

Department spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: “We are aware of reports that there has been an outbreak of AI in Gauteng. No such cases have been reported in the Western Cape.

“Our veterinary services continue to monitor the situation in the Western Cape and will remain vigilant. The intention is to release a statement over the next day or two.”

Johnson said the province was thankful that Sapa had placed the whole industry on high alert and that appropriate bio-security contingency plans were being implemented.

On Wednesday, the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) reported an outbreak on a commercial farm in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.

Departmental spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said: “Approximately 300 birds died of AI on this commercial chicken-layer farm. The samples from this farm that were sent to the laboratory tested positive for the H5 strain of AI.

“It must be said that this farm was also part of the H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak in 2017. Upon confirmation that it was H5, the birds in the affected house were immediately destroyed.”

Ngcobo said that arrangements had been made for the samples to be urgently tested at Onderstepoort Veterinary Research campus but that the results had not yet returned.

According to DALRRD, poultry farmers have to be on the lookout for signs that may indicate AI and report any suspicion to the nearest state veterinarian for immediate investigation.

The department said some of the signs to watch out for in birds infected with virus include “quietness and extreme depression; sudden drop in production of eggs, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less; Wattle and combs become red and swollen; Swelling of the skin under the eyes; coughing, sneezing and signs of nervousness.

Other signs are “diarrhoea and blood spots on the hock, which is the joint between the drumstick on a chicken and the ankle joint”.

The department said that during an outbreak, a few deaths may occur over several days, followed by rapid spread of disease and deaths up to 100% within 48 hours.

Sapa spokesperson Louisa Nel said: “There is currently a widespread outbreak of avian influenza virus in Europe, which was first confirmed in October 2020. However, these outbreaks have not caused as much of a loss to the poultry industry as the previous large-scale outbreaks of 2015 and 2017, due to lessons learnt.

“Consumers are reminded that meat and eggs on the shelves are safe for consumption as long as normal food-safety steps are followed when preparing meals.

"Poultry meat stocks in the country are sufficient due to increased production during the last year and a half, and to an extent a reduction in consumption of poultry meat during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Cape Argus

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