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South Africa Battles Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks

by Central News Reporter
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Pathogenic avian influenza

 

Pathogenic avian influenza

South Africa is currently grappling with a significant outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 and H7. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) reported over 50 confirmed cases spread across various regions of the country.

The situation has prompted the department to urge poultry farmers to immediately report any suspicions of the disease to the nearest State Veterinarian.

 

Pathogenic avian influenza

Pathogenic avian influenza

As of September 21, 2023, there have been 50 reported HPAI H7 outbreaks and 10 HPAI H5 outbreaks. Gauteng province has been the hardest hit by HPAI H7, with 37 confirmed cases. Other affected regions include Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and the Free State, each reporting two cases, while the Western Cape province has recorded one case.

The overall toll on the chicken population is staggering, with 1,426,226 reported losses. Over 100,000 chickens have died, and more than 1.3 million have been culled.

The Western Cape province has also experienced a significant HPAI H5 outbreak, with a total of seven reported outbreaks. KwaZulu-Natal province has reported the remaining three HPAI H5 outbreaks.

The number of chickens affected by HPAI H5 stands at 98,249 deaths and 1,156,283 culled, resulting in a total loss of 1,254,532 chickens.

The department has noticed an increasing number of newly detected H7 and H5 PCR positive farms. To mitigate further spread, it strongly advises the poultry industry to prioritize biosecurity measures on farms to reduce the risk of introduction and transmission.

In an effort to support the broiler industry, the department has facilitated the importation of fertile eggs and plans to consider a similar request for table eggs. Additionally, the department is assisting in the transit of fertile eggs to Eswatini for broiler production.

The department has also held discussions with vaccine registration regulators, agreeing to fast-track the registration process. However, safety, efficacy, and quality will not be overlooked during this expedited process. The department emphasizes the importance of choosing a vaccine that meets strict quality and efficacy parameters due to the high probability of the avian influenza virus mutating and becoming zoonotic.

The criteria for vaccination are in the final stages of development, with only farms exhibiting good biosecurity and receiving department approval permitted to vaccinate. Vaccination requirements will also include surveillance for early detection and mandatory slaughter of vaccinated chickens.

In light of the outbreaks, the department strongly encourages all poultry producers to enhance their biosecurity measures on farms. These measures should focus on preventing contact with wild birds and their excrement, which can be inadvertently transported via boots and equipment.

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