SA’s poultry industry and bird keepers can finally sigh with relief, but they must be ready to act next winter. SA has turned the corner in fighting the deadly H5N8 strain of bird flu in commercial flocks, with outbreaks under control and the disease on the wane across the country. While the poultry industry, health authorities and consumers sigh with relief, it is important to guard against complacency, as the disease has not yet been eradicated, particularly in wild birds and ostrich enterprises. Surveillance in this area is continuing, although the disease seems to be waning in wild birds.
Compared with other countries that experienced similar H5N8 outbreaks, SA has emerged relatively stronger, thanks to collaborative efforts aimed at preventing the disease from spreading. In June, the outbreak of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza was detected in a commercial poultry facility in Mpumalanga. Further outbreaks occurred in other provinces, with recorded outbreaks peaking in September. Of the 96 outbreaks reported since June 2017 in commercial, caged and wild birds in SA, 64 were in the Western Cape, 14 in Gauteng, 11 in Mpumalanga, two each in the Eastern Cape, Free State and North West, and a single case in KwaZulu-Natal. More than 4-million birds have been culled. The last outbreak in North West was in early October, and the Western Cape agriculture department reported on November 8 that no further incidences had been recorded — a good sign from the country’s hardest-hit province. While the broiler population — the main source of chicken — has been affected, infected birds have been mostly layers (egg producers) and wild birds such as ducks and even pigeons. Although the outbreak has cost the industry hundreds of millions of rand, there have also been other negative implications for small businesses, emerging farmers and consumers, who felt the effects too, with eggs increasing in price. Source: