Avian flu outbreak prompts South Africa, Zimbabwe to cull a million chickens

South Africa and Zimbabwe have culled more than one million chickens after an outbreak of avian influenza, which threatens food security in the region, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

 

Agencies and TimesLive

South Africa and Zimbabwe have culled more than one million chickens after an outbreak of avian influenza, which threatens food security in the region, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

“This is likely to have a knock-on effect on the availability of table eggs and poultry meat for consumers in the region,” the FAO said in a statement. “South Africa alone is destroying one million eggs a day from the affected farms.”

The outbreak of the H5N8 virus first started in the southern African region in May, after Uganda reported it in January.

Poultry was the largest contributor to South Africa’s agriculture sector last year, generating more than $3.5 billion in gross income, according to the FAO. The industry provides 64 percent of animal protein consumed in the country, excluding milk, according to an industry body.

Astral Foods Ltd, a poultry producer based in Pretoria, said at the weekend it had detected a second outbreak of the disease at its facilities. The company’s shares have fallen by more than 5 percent on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange since it reported the first outbreak in June.

At the time South Africa along with Botswana banned chicken imports from Zimbabwe when a bird flu outbreak was detected in one of Zimbabwe’s leading poultry companies.

South Africa’s Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said last month that a new case of the highly contagious bird flu – the country’s second – had been confirmed at a layer farm in Val in Standerton in Standerton.

It said the virus was the same strain as the initial case reported on a poultry breeder farm near Villiers in the Free State last Thursday but that the two farms were not linked‚ meaning that the latest case was a separate introduction.

“The farm has been placed under quarantine and over 25‚000 of the infected birds will be culled. Eggs are not allowed to move out of the farm‚” the department said.

It added that the ban on the sale of live poultry was still in place‚ to enable the department to assess the extent of the outbreak.

“We will observe this ban for a period of 14 days and will reassess the situation. It takes approximately four days for the infected bird to show clinical signs of the disease. We have put this measure in place to prevent further unintended spread of the influenza.

“We are pleading with commercial and backyard farmers to report any cases of large numbers of birds dying to the nearest state vets so the department can send veterinary officials for follow up investigations and collection of samples for confirmation‚” the department said.

 

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