The initial outbreak of avian influenza H5 on a layer farm on the East Rand has now been identified as HPAI H5N1.
According to the Colin Steenhuisen, interim general manager of the Egg Organisation of the SA Poultry Association, this is not the same strain the country experienced in June 2017.
This is however the first outbreak of H5 on a commercial farm in South Africa since the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) in 2017, which had a significant impact on the layer industry and also marginally affected the broiler industry.
“Any outbreak of HPAI is treated extremely seriously and virulent, and the poultry industry remains in a state of high alert,” Steenhuisen said.
“Quarantine protocols remain in place on the farm concerned, the farm workers are issued personal protective equipment daily and the farm is being sterilised before accepting new layers.”
Steenhuisen added the company concerned made the responsible decision to cull all 240 000 hens – at a replacement cost of R20-million – to protect surrounding farms and the South African poultry industry in general.
All biosecurity measures remain in place at the farm.
“Most unfortunately, a second outbreak of HPAI H5 has been reported on a North West broiler breeder farm, which has culled 7 000 broiler breeder birds,” said Steenhuisen.
“The mortalities have been sent to Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute for analysis and sequencing.”
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a notifiable disease that has to be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which dispatches daily updates on notifiable diseases to all countries in the world.
Countries have the right to cease trade imports from any country that has been identified by the OIE as having an outbreak of a notifiable disease.
At present Namibia has banned poultry product imports from South Africa’s Compartment ZA 18/500 (the defined area of the first outbreak), Botswana and Mozambique have banned all poultry meat, eggs and feathers from South Africa and Lesotho has banned eggs from Gauteng.
Dr Mpho Maja, director of animal health at the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), is continuing discussions with all neighbouring countries to minimize the impact on SA exports.
“Farmers and all keepers of poultry are urgently requested to familiarise themselves with, and implement the highest levels of biosecurity protocols to protect not only their flocks, but our poultry industry as a whole,” said Steenhuisen.
“This strain of avian influenza is carried by wild birds, especially at this time of year when their natural migration northwards occur. All persons are requested to be on the lookout for dead birds, and report these to their nearest state veterinarian.
“Dr Maja is working closely with the industry on the outbreaks of HPAI, and will make a decision regarding movement of poultry when deemed necessary.
“Consumers are ensured that eggs and broiler meat products are safe to eat provided normal cooking protocols are followed; specifically temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius are recommended.”
ALSO READ: Avian flu: What you need to know