Bird flu narrowed down to 1 farm

2011-04-15 14:27

Johannesburg - South African ostrich exports to the European Union have been suspended after avian flu was detected in birds in the Western Cape, the provincial agriculture department said on Friday.

Spokesperson Wouter Kriel said the H5N2 virus was initially detected on five farms in the Oudtshoorn area, but that this had since been narrowed down to one farm in the area with 5 000 ostriches.

"The birds will have to be destroyed to prevent the further spread of the disease," Kriel said. They would be destroyed as "soon and as quickly" as possible.

"It's a virus and it's spread by birds. You can't really prevent birds from interacting with animals on your farm." He said the H5N2 strain did not pose a health risk to humans.

Kriel said the ban on exports had been self-imposed by the farmers to protect the integrity of their stock.

In line with international protocol, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) had been informed of the detection of the virus.

Outbreak limited to Western Cape

According to a notification on the OIE's website, 5 754 animals on the farm were susceptible to the virus, 100 cases had been found and 100 deaths reported.

The suspected outbreak was limited to the Western Cape area.

Kriel said the virus was detected in routine tests.

The industry, which supported 20 000 people in the area, had come to a standstill.

Kriel said the provincial government was in discussion with its national counterpart in an attempt to compensate the affected farmer.

A hygiene and sanitation company in the food sector, Ecowize, on Friday said it was "crucial" to put stringent measures in place on farms throughout the country to prevent the outbreak from becoming a nationwide threat.