In a new development, the Western Cape department of agriculture confirms that at least four farms have now reported avian influenza outbreaks. The affected farms are located near Malmesbury, Worcester and Hopefield.
“Two farms have been confirmed to have [the] H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), though laboratory confirmation is still pending for the other two farms,” says the provincial agriculture minister Dr Ivan Meyer.
A possible relationship to an avian influenza outbreak in other parts of the country is unconfirmed. Western Cape veterinary services are, however, in the process of investigating other suspected cases in the province.
In the Western Cape alone, the total number of birds that have already been culled, or have died from HPAI, totals about 134 000.
Meyer’s department urges the public to be vigilant and report unusual mortalities in any birds to their local state veterinarian. Contact details are available online.
The minister also confirms that poultry products are safe to eat despite the avian influenza outbreak.
“Strains of the avian influenza virus recently identified in South Africa carry a low risk for human infection. However, humans can transmit the virus from sick birds to other birds on their clothes and hands. People are therefore advised to handle all dead birds with gloves and wash their hands afterwards.”
Earlier, Dr Lucia Anelich, a Pretoria-based microbiologist, also told Food For Mzansi that the H5N1 influenza virus will not affect humans.
South Africa’s avian influenza outbreaks have resulted in a number of neighbouring countries banning the importation of local poultry products, including Botswana and Namibia.