No new cases of ‘bird flu’ in the Western Cape in more than month

There have been no new confirmed cases of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strain in the Western Cape in over a month‚ the province’s minister of economic opportunities‚ Alan Winde‚ said on Sunday.

He said there were currently 68 confirmed cases of HPAI or bird flu in the Western Cape but that there had been no new infections at commercial poultry farms since October 18.

“State vets are working with farms to disinfect their chicken houses so that they can start restocking. Common practice is for sentinel birds to be placed in houses as a method of detecting any trace of the virus. Some farms are already testing sentinels‚ and early reports show that they remain virus-free.

While I am happy with this progress‚ restocking is not a process that must be rushed. If we rush it‚ we run the risk of reinfection‚ and the need to cull again.” Winde added that since the infection rate had started tapering off‚ the industry was looking at proactive risk management plans. “This was the first time our industry was hit by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. The industry is already looking at risk management lessons that can be learnt from this outbreak.”

State vets have put the following in place in respect of restocking: - Farms are advised to have a full biosecurity audit on the property performed by a veterinarian and address all recommendations and concerns arising from this audit prior to re-stocking the farm with poultry; - The property is still under quarantine and no birds or products may be permitted to leave the property until the quarantine is lifted; -

The owner must sign that they understand restocking at this stage is at their own risk and no compensation or incentive will be paid if the birds must be culled due to HPAI; - Clinical surveillance on the sentinels or restocked poultry must be undertaken during this period; If after the full 42 days since the first disinfection‚ the state veterinarian is satisfied that the property is free from HPAI‚ the quarantine may be lifted‚ Winde said.

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