The poultry industry was on high alert on Tuesday after an outbreak of avian influenza was confirmed in a commercial layer flock on the East Rand of Johannesburg.
The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) said the farm was quarantined and that the N-type would be established on Wednesday after conclusive testing at Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute.
“The whole industry has been placed on high alert and the appropriate biosecurity contingency plans implemented as advised, which will include a restriction on people and bird movement for both bigger companies and SMME’s,” the association said in a statement.
This is the first outbreak of avian influenza (H5) on a commercial farm in SA since the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) in 2017, which had a significant effect on the layer industry and also marginally affected the broiler industry.
“So far the outbreak is contained to the one farm and Sapa is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to engage with the Department of agriculture, land reform and rural development and other relevant stakeholders to contain the outbreak,” the association said.
A widespread outbreak of the avian influenza virus now in Europe was first confirmed in October 2020.
“Northern European countries have been predominantly affected, however these outbreaks have not caused as much of a loss to the poultry industry as the previous large-scale outbreaks of 2015 and 2017, due to lessons learnt previously.
“The role of migratory wild birds in the spread of the virus has been previously proven, and containment of poultry flocks in covered environments is recommended to avoid possible contamination as far as possible,” said Sapa.
The association said the World Health Organisation and the World Organisation of Animal Health confirmed that this strain of the virus was found to not be dangerous to humans, and in the isolated cases where transmission has occurred, it could be treated effectively.
“Consumers are reminded that meat and eggs on the shelves are safe for consumption as long as normal food-safety steps are followed when preparing meals. Poultry meat stocks in the country are sufficient due to increased production during the last year and a half, and to an extent a reduction in consumption of poultry meat during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Sapa requests the co-operation of “all relevant parties to prevent further the spread of this outbreak, and to enhance the disease-management efforts”. It urged producers to remain vigilant and ensure that biosecurity measures are adhered to.
The public was also requested to report any sightings of dead backyard chickens or wild birds to their nearest state veterinarian.