CAPE TOWN – Avian flu has been detected on two commercial ostrich farms in the Western Cape.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), type H5N8, has been detected in farms in the Heidelberg area. Both farms have been placed under quarantine.

There are around 1 000 ostriches on both farms.

Bomikazi Molapo, spokesperson for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana, confirmed the cases.

“Samples collected in ostriches on two ostrich farms in the Western Cape tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N8. Quarantine has been instituted and the usual disease-control measures have commenced,” she said.

The farms are under quarantine and therefore no animal or animal products may be moved off or on to them.

Epidemiological investigations will provide the necessary information and determine the extent of the control measures, Molapo said.

“Meat from farms, positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, will not enter the human food chain as the meat will not be allowed to move off the quarantined farms.

“Meat from unaffected farms will undergo routine meat inspection at the abattoirs in order to be declared safe for human consumption before entering the human food chain,” she added.

Bronwynne Jooste, spokesperson for MEC for Economic Opportunities Responsible for Tourism, Economic Development and Agriculture Alan Winde, said vets from the department detected HPAI during routine testing.

“Last week, throat swabs tested positive for HPAI.

“To ensure the accuracy of the first test, and because the ostriches are not showing any clinical signs of the illness, vets continued their testing campaign. There have been no reported bird deaths in the area,” she said.

At this stage, it appears that the incidence has been confined to the two properties, but farms within 3km of the affected farms will be placed under quarantine and testing in the surrounding areas will continue, she said.

“No decision to cull has been taken and discussions are ongoing,” Jooste said.

It is suspected that wild birds are the source of the infection. Thirteen outbreaks have occurred in South Africa since June in Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

The outbreaks involved seven commercial chicken farms, two groups of backyard chickens, three sets of wild birds and one group of domestic geese.

This strain of the virus has so far shown no sign of being infectious to people. There is currently no preventive vaccine or treatment for HPAI H5N8.

Current practice in most regions of the world requires the culling of infected birds.


PHOTO: File photo: Independent Media


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