Cape Town - Poultry farmers in Worcester have been urged to be vigilant following the identification of HPAI H5N1 or avian influenza, on a broiler breeder farm in the area.
According to Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer, avian influenza is a viral respiratory disease of birds spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials.
“The affected farm is under quarantine, and the process of humanely culling the affected chickens is under way.
“There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the highly pathogenic avian influenza and current practice in most regions of the world requires the culling of infected birds.”
Meyer assured consumers that poultry products from grocery stores are safe for consumption and that there is currently no indication that this strain of avian influenza can affect humans.
Chief state veterinarian Dr Lesley van Helden said: “We do advise caution when handling or slaughtering potentially infected poultry.
“The virus is present in the faeces of infected birds and discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes.
“Poultry workers, abattoir workers and those who dress their poultry should only handle dead bird carcasses with gloves or disinfect their hands after handling carcasses.”
Van Helden said farmers should restrict access to their properties as far as possible as it is crucial to keep poultry and other animals away from wild birds and their body fluids through screens, fencing or nets.
The incident comes after the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on Thursday announced outbreaks in Gauteng and the North West, which spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said seemed to have been caused by non-identical strains.
“The two outbreaks were therefore more likely to have been caused by separate introductions.
“Everyone across the country is once again urged to treat any increase in mortalities (deaths) of poultry and other bird species as potential avian influenza, until proven otherwise.
"All increases in mortality rates must be reported to the state veterinarian responsible for the particular area or the relevant provincial director immediately.”
For further information, see https://www.elsenburg.com/services-and-programmes/veterinary-services-0#s=Animal-Health-and-Disease-Control