Avian influenza detected in Western Cape

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The Western Cape Veterinary Services has warned poultry farmers that avian influenza has been detected in two commercial layer farms in the Paardeberg area (in the Drakenstein and Swartland local municipalities).

Approximately 120 000 birds have died or have been destroyed. The first outbreak was confirmed on 21 April, and the second on 25 April. The exact strain involved is still unknown and is being investigated.

Highly pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks have been occurring worldwide and were detected in poultry in other South African provinces earlier in 2023 and throughout 2022.

However, the Western Cape has not seen the virus in commercial poultry since early last year.

Avian influenza is controlled under the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act No. 35 of 1984). Any suspicion of the disease – in wild or domestic birds – must be reported to the local state veterinarian. Contact details are available at: https://www.elsenburg.com/veterinary-services/animal-health-and-disease-control/.

Avian influenza is a viral disease spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials. The virus is present in infected birds’ faeces and discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes. In addition, domestic birds can be infected through faecal contamination of the environment from wild birds or by indirect contact with infected poultry on other premises.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for HPAI. As a result, current practice in much of the world requires culling infected birds as quickly as possible to limit the spread of the disease.

Preventative measures to put in place

The Western Cape Government urges the public and agricultural sectors to be on high alert. Farmers and poultry producers should be vigilant in their biosecurity measures to prevent potential virus introduction from wild birds or their faeces through the following steps:

  • Restricting access to properties as far as possible.
  • Keeping poultry away from wild birds and their body fluids is essential.
  • Avoiding the introduction of the virus through contaminated clothes, footwear, vehicles or farm equipment.
  • Disinfecting vehicles upon entering and exiting.
  • Not allowing people who have had contact with poultry in the past 48 hours onto your property.
  • Using footbaths upon entry and exit to poultry houses is advised to disinfect footwear.

Although the risk of avian influenza being transmitted to humans remains low, experts advise that members of the public should avoid touching dead birds. In addition, we advise caution when handling or slaughtering potentially infected poultry. Gloves, a mask and eye protection should be worn.

Read more about construction broiler houses for chickens.

Poultry products from grocery stores are safe for consumption. – Press release, Western Cape Department of Agriculture