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Avian Influenza outbreak in the Western Cape


“Western Cape Veterinary Services wishes to notify you of the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). 

Avian influenza is a controlled disease in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 35 of 1984. The virus has been isolated from various farms and wild birds. It is confirmed as H5N8 (This is the strain of bird flu that is currently circulating in Europe, Africa, and Asia) and is killing large numbers of birds. It is associated with high mortality in poultry and has been found in many migratory birds. 

One of the outbreaks is in the Paardeberg region. This is a densely populated poultry area (DPPA), so this event could result in disaster for the poultry industry in the Western Cape. State Vet are liaising with Provincial Disaster Management as well as the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning regarding the way forward.

Avian influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds, or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials. The virus is present in the faeces of infected birds and in discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes. The virus can spread into domestic flocks kept outdoors through faecal contamination from wild birds, whereas infection among indoor flocks is spread via airborne discharges and faeces. 

How will I recognize a bird with avian influenza? 

Avian influenza can infect almost all species of birds. Birds with avian influenza normally die very rapidly, and they may die before any clinical signs are visible. 

If signs are seen they may be one or all of the following: 

– Reduced vocalization. 

– Listlessness. 

– Swollen runny eyes. 

– Drops in egg production sometimes with pale, misshape or thin-shelled eggs. 

– Respiratory signs such difficulty breathing and foam or blood coming from the nostrils or mouth. 

– Neurological signs such as in-coordination or abnormal bending of the neck. 

– A drop in feed and/or water consumption. 

– Swollen combs and wattles. 

– Swollen head and legs. 

– Bruising on the unfeathered parts of legs and feet. 

There is currently no preventive vaccine or treatment for HPAI H5N8. 

Current practice inmost regions of the world requires the culling of infected birds. State Vet advises against shooting wild birds on your farm, this has been tried previously and is not an effective preventative measure. 

Can people be infected? The current outbreak is the H5N8 high pathogenic strain and although it is rapidly fatal in birds, so far, no human cases have occurred. It is still, however, necessary to take precautions to prevent human infection. 

– Poultry workers and abattoir workers and those who dress their own poultry are most at risk. 

– People are advised not to handle dead bird carcasses without gloves, or to disinfect hands after handling carcasses. 

*Poultry products from grocery stores are safe for consumption.* 

What should I do to protect my own pet birds/poultry? 

– It is important to keep poultry and other birds away from wild birds and their body fluids, through keeping them indoors, screens, fencing or nets.

– Access to properties keeping poultry should be restricted as far as possible. Vehicles entering the properties should be disinfected upon entering and exiting.

– Do not allow any people who have had contact with poultry in the last 48 hours onto your property. 

– Do not allow any mortalities or food to lie around in the open as this can attract wild birds. 

– Preferably do not handle other birds, and disinfect your hands or any in-contact clothing afterwards. 

Can I move my birds? It is strongly recommended that any movement of pet birds, racing pigeons, breeding birds and show birds be limited as far as possible and covered by a movement permit if coming from within 30km of an infected farm. 

– It is very important to report sick or dead birds – both wild birds and poultry – to local veterinary services.” 

Details of local state veterinarians can be found at:  http://www.elsenburg.com/services-an…/veterinary-services-0…. 


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