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Bird flu hits Western Cape, sparks call to heighten biosecurity measures

Bird flu hits Western Cape, sparks call to heighten biosecurity measures
(Photo: Jamie McDonald / Getty Images)

The case of avian influenza in George follows the introduction of chickens from an infected province.

The Western Cape is the latest province to be hit by avian flu cases after the introduction of chickens from an infected province. 

Provincial authorities have reported the first case in George on the Garden Route.

Cases have been reported in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State and Limpopo, while the Western Cape had not experienced any outbreaks since June.

From April to June 2023, the Western Cape had seven outbreaks of the H5N1 HPAI virus. Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer reported that the authorities resolved these cases by depopulating, cleaning and disinfecting the affected farms twice under the inspection of the state veterinarian while they were under quarantine. 

Poultry is the largest industry in South Africa’s agricultural sector and contributes significantly to the economy.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Government considers vaccinations as avian flu outbreak triggers egg shortages

Read more in Daily Maverick: Poultry producers bear crippling cost of avian flu as government accused of dragging its feet

The South African Poultry Association estimates that the broiler industry’s gross value increased to R59-billion in 2022 from R47-billion in 2019.

“It is very unfortunate and a blow to the Western Cape poultry industry that the first case of H7 High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) was diagnosed yesterday [Thursday] in the George area. This follows the introduction of chickens from an infected province in the north. The George farm has been quarantined and culling on the farm has already started,” Meyer said.

He urged the province’s poultry owners to heighten biosecurity measures as far as possible and be extremely cautious when bringing in new chickens or allowing visitors or vehicles onto poultry farms. 

Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer at the DA’s announcement of its Gauteng premier candidate at Hallmark House in New Doornfontein on 13 September 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

“Moving chickens from infected provinces should be avoided at all costs as this has a severe impact on the entire Western Cape if more cases of H7 HPAI are detected.”

Avian flu triggered an egg shortage in South Africa recently and some industry players raised concerns about supplies of chicken meat.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Avian flu sees four million chickens destroyed, raising egg conundrum for SA consumers

The outbreak has also resulted in eggs becoming the country’s hot commodity as prices have ballooned. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: South African retailers warn of looming egg shortages linked to nationwide avian flu outbreak

State veterinarian and director of animal health, Dr Noluvuyo Magadla, continues to appeal to poultry owners to adhere to the following general recommendations to prevent transmission of the disease between farms:

  • Discouraging interprovincial movement of birds and advising farmers to avoid these movements until avian influenza outbreaks are under control;
  • Ensuring that you only bring healthy poultry onto your property;
  • Keeping new birds completely separate for two weeks and only mixing with your other birds if they remain healthy;
  • Not allowing anyone onto your property who has had contact with poultry in the previous two days;
  • Not visiting poultry owned by others;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting vehicles upon entering and exiting properties;
  • Using footbaths to disinfect footwear when entering and leaving a poultry house; and
  • Keeping poultry away from wild birds and their bodily fluids. DM

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