The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said there were now 92 locations in South Africa that had tested positive for the avian flu.
All cases have been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Most of the outbreaks have been recorded in the Western Cape (61), a province which has been forced to cull extensively and that has resulted in a significant poultry and egg shortage.
Gauteng, South Africa’s most populace province, comes in second with 13 reported outbreaks, while the Mpumalanga province – which borders Gauteng – has also been severely affected. Eleven outbreaks have been recorded there.
In addition, the North West (2), Free State (2), Kwa-Zulu Natal (1) and the Eastern Cape (2) have all been affected to some degree or the other. Despite the rapid spread of avian flu in South Africa, the DAFF insists that it now has a firm handle on the outbreak.
“Since the first case of HPAI was confirmed in a broiler breeder operation near Villiers, Mpumalanga in June 2017, a number of other poultry and ostrich operations, as well as wild bird species, hobby birds and backyard chickens have subsequently been infected with HPAI,” said departmental spokesperson Makenosi Maroo.
“The affected birds are divided into distinct categories – commercial poultry, backyard poultry, ostriches, hobby birds and wild birds.
“Two out of the nine provinces, Limpopo and the Northern Cape province, have not been affected by HPAI H5N8. The largest numbers of HPAI H5N8 outbreaks are on commercial farms and the highest numbers of wild bird outbreaks have been reported in the Western Cape province,” added Maroo.
Naturally, the outbreak has required that there be government intervention too, and that has been done in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders. Maroo insists that tremendous headway had been made on that front.
“The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries has been working very closely with several role players on critical issues related to the control of the outbreak of HPAI in South Africa; to find the best means to protect consumers and support poultry farmers,” she said.
“To date, none of the outbreaks could be directly linked to the movement of live birds from an affected farm.
“A system was introduced to allow for movement of healthy live chickens for purposes other than for slaughter. Provincial Veterinary Services issued health attestations for small scale farmers and distributors of live chickens and the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) was authorised by DAFF to register and keep records of all parties selling and buying live chickens. This has so far been effective to prevent the spread of the disease to small scale farmers and backyard breeders on a large scale,” added the departmental spokesperson.
“The issue of vaccination against HPAI has been discussed with various stakeholders, including the commercial poultry industry. Currently DAFF, in collaboration with the poultry industry, is investigating how a vaccination strategy could be incorporated as a control measure for specific groups of birds on farms that will be able to implement the necessary safety measures and testing schedule. Inputs of vaccine manufacturers and international experts have been taken into account. This measure might decrease the effects of the HPAI outbreak on the short term but might have a negative effect on trade. An exit strategy to withdraw vaccination once the threat of HPAI is passed is also under discussion.
“Discussions on how to safeguard rare and endangered birds in zoos were held with organisation representing these valuable bird collections. A protocol is currently been finalised for exemption of culling of these birds and a vaccine strategy to protect the birds from dying.”