Close to two thirds of the Western Cape egg-laying hens have been culled as cases of bird flu continue to increase, said MEC Alan Winde. Picture: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Cape Town - Close to two thirds of the Western Cape egg-laying hens have been culled as cases of bird flu continue to increase, the Western Cape's Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said on Friday.

Winde said there are now 56 confirmed cases of HPAI H5N8, or avian influenza or bird flu, in the province. He said 2.7 million birds have been culled - 2.6 million of which were layer hens.

"There are just over 4.2 million layer hens in the Western Cape, meaning we have lost 63% of our egg laying poultry," said Winde.

"We have received reports that farms in Gauteng have started restocking, after their properties have shown to be 100% free of the virus. We will be monitoring this process closely."

Winde said chicken houses are being disinfected across the province, but until all traces of the virus have been eliminated, the Western Cape could not start restocking.

It is estimated the province has lost close to R900 million as a result of the virus - R800 million in production and a R75-million loss is expected in the cull buyer market.

Winde said there were 144 ostrich farmers under quarantine, but added that none of these birds have been culled as a result of bird flu thus far.