Avian influenza has been confirmed on two commercial farms in Gauteng and North West. Picture: Reuters
Avian influenza has been confirmed on two commercial farms in Gauteng and North West. Picture: Reuters

Avian Influenza spreads despite 270 000 chickens culled in Gauteng

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Apr 23, 2021

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Pretoria - The South African agricultural department on Thursday said H5 avian influenza was confirmed on two commercial farms in Gauteng and in the North West, after the strain was initially reported at a commercial farm in Ekurhuleni earlier this month.

The avian influenza strain reported in Ekurhuleni has subsequently been confirmed to be highly pathogenic avian influenza identified as HPAI H5N1, according to Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

He added that further genetic evaluations confirmed that the virus groups closely with the strain currently circulating in wild birds in Europe.

“No human infection due to these circulating strains had been reported in Europe and thus the zoonotic risk to people is very low. The consumer has no reason to be concerned,” said Ngcobo.

“The entire farm, approximately 270 000 birds, was culled and approval was obtained for burial at a nearby dumping site under controlled conditions.”

The disposal of the chickens was also done under state veterinary supervision.

This week, an additional two commercial farms tested positive for the virus.

“On 19 April 2021, a further two commercial chicken properties tested positive for H5 on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test method. One is a commercial chicken-layer farm in City of Tshwane, Gauteng. The other is a commercial chicken parent breeder farm in J.B Marks Local Municipality in North West province,” said Ngcobo.

Both farms have been quarantined and control measures are being implemented.

“Everyone is 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 responsible state veterinarian of the area immediately,” said Ngcobo.

“Furthermore, everyone keeping poultry and other bird species should ensure that their biosecurity and biosafety measures are refined and of the highest standard possible.”

The department of agriculture has urged all poultry farmers in South Africa, as well as people who keep birds as a hobby or for zoo purposes biosecurity measures that include:

– Keep birds away from areas that are visited by wild birds;

– Keep control over the access of poultry houses by people and equipment;

– Do not provide water and food in a way that may attract wild birds. Rather feed your own birds under cover or inside a confined structure;

– Maintain proper disinfection of the property, poultry houses and equipment;

– Avoid the introduction of birds of unknown disease status into your flock(s);

– Report illness and deaths of birds to your responsible state or private veterinarian;

– Practice appropriate disposal of manure and dead birds.

One of the three affected poultry facilities is a registered entity for export.

“In agreement with international trade recommendations, Namibia and Botswana have only banned poultry and poultry raw products from this affected compartment,” said Ngcobo.

“Both countries therefore still allow the export of poultry and poultry raw products from registered compartments within South Africa that comply with the monthly surveillance requirements and are on the NAI free compartment list compiled by the Directorate: Animal Health.”

Lesotho has banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from Gauteng province.

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African News Agency (ANA)

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