Sick birds stun farms

2014-11-20 00:00

AN outbreak of a disease most common among chickens has struck three major poultry farms around ­Pietermaritzburg.

A prominent vet, who cannot be named, said there were three farms around the Pietermaritzburg area that had confirmed cases of Newcastle disease in the past month.

Newcastle disease affects poultry, wild birds and sometimes pigeons and hadedas.

“It is a high impact disease that will wipe out a whole flock,” said the vet.

“Technically speaking, humans should not eat birds that have the disease. They should be slaughtered and buried like they are in Europe.”

According to the source, some poultry farms slaughter the sick birds and then sell them on the market for human consumption.

“This has been my biggest problem with disease control in South Africa. We tend to not follow the rules. South Africa does not follow science,” said the concerned source.

KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson Nkosi Ngubane said it was important people did not eat products where the animal had died from a disease. “We have signed charters with international organisations that say whenever there is an outbreak of a disease in animals, humans are key when it comes to protection.”

Ngubane said although the disease has no affect on humans who eat the meat, it was best for people to stay away from the tainted meat as a precautionary measure.

“As a department, when we hear of these outbreaks, our vets are sent to assess the animals and we make sure they are not sold until the farm is completely cleared of any disease,” said Ngubane.

An incident of 10 birds found dead in a Howick garden was reported to The Witness yesterday, and the prominent vet, who cannot be named, said a Howick resident brought in a dead hadeda a few days ago.

The source said that the hadeda had died of Newcastle disease and the 10 dead pigeons found by Howick resident Allen Spiers would most likely be an outbreak of the illness too.

The source said the disease had no effect on dogs or cats but the birds should be sent to the local SPCA so they could be sent for further testing.

In October, The Witness reported that dead pigeons and doves had been found in gardens in the Howick area.


NEWCASTLE disease is one of the most feared poultry illnesses in the world and has an extremely high death rate.

According to information on the Department of Agriculture website, the disease is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. The virus, present in droppings of birds carrying the virus, is passed through food, water and air that has been contaminated by the droppings.

General signs of the illness according to the Department of Agriculture’s website include:

• Birds rapidly become weak and often die without warning

• Depression

• Sitting with ruffled feathers

• If laying hens are affected, egg production drops suddenly. The eggs are of poor quality, have soft shells and may also be deformed. Egg whites may be watery.

The disease is not curable but is controllable “by management and vaccinations”.


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