The initial outbreak of avian influenza H5 on a layer farm on the East Rand of Johannesburg has now been identified as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, industry organisation the South African Poultry Association (Sapa) says.
It notes that this is not the same strain as was experienced in June 2017; however, any outbreak of HPAI is treated as entirely serious and virulent, and the poultry industry remains in a state of high alert.
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, Sapa points out.
The organisation says the company concerned made the decision to cull all 240 000 hens to protect surrounding farms and the country’s poultry industry in general.
All biosecurity measures remain in place. The replacement cost of these hens is R20-million.
Meanwhile, a second outbreak of HPAI H5 has been reported on a North West broiler breeder farm, which has culled 7 000 broiler breeder birds.
The mortalities have been sent to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute for analysis and sequencing, the organisation says.
HPAI is a notifiable disease that has to be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which dispatches daily updates on these globally.
Countries have the right to cease trade imports from any country that has been identified by the OIE as having an outbreak.
At present, Namibia has banned poultry imports from South Africa's Compartment ZA 18/500 (the defined area of the first outbreak), while Botswana and Mozambique have banned all poultry meat, eggs and feathers from the country, and Lesotho has banned eggs from Gauteng.
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Animal Health director Dr Mpho Maja is continuing discussions with neighbouring countries to minimise the impact on the country’s exports.
He is working closely with the industry on the outbreaks of HPAI, and will make a decision regarding movement of poultry when deemed necessary.
This strain of avian influenzas is carried by wild birds, especially during this time of the year when their natural migration northwards occur. The organisation called for people to be on the lookout for dead birds, and report these to their nearest State veterinarian.
Sapa assures consumers that eggs and broiler meat products are safe to eat provided normal protocols are followed.