Department of agriculture to help farmers stop the spread of bird flu

2017-10-23 22:16
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Johannesburg – A total of 92 locations have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has confirmed.

The department said in a statement that affected birds are divided into distinct categories, namely, commercial poultry, backyard poultry, ostriches, hobby birds and wild birds. The largest numbers of outbreaks are on commercial farms, with the Western Cape having the highest number of wild bird outbreaks, read a statement.

Limpopo and the Northern Cape have not been affected.

A total of 61 outbreaks have been reported in the Western Cape, 13 in Gauteng, 11 in Mpumalanga, two in the North West, Eastern Cape and the Free State, and one in KwaZulu-Natal.

The first case of HPAI was confirmed in a broiler breeder operation in Mpumalanga in June 2017. Since then a number of other poultry and ostrich operations, as well as wild bird species, hobby birds and backyard chickens have subsequently been infected, read a statement.

"Quarantine, culling and safe disposal of infected chickens and other poultry as soon as possible after detection of infection is the most effective way to eradicate and to stop the spread of disease," the department said, adding that endangered and rare birds at zoos would be vaccinated and be exempt from culling.

Compensation legislation being drafted

The Provincial Veterinary Services has been tasked with controlling the movement of live commercial chickens in an effort to stop the spread of the disease from one affected property to another. 

"A system was introduced to allow for movement of healthy live chickens for purposes other than for slaughter. Provincial Veterinary Services issued health attestations for small-scale farmers and distributors of live chickens and the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) was authorised by DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) to register and keep records of all parties selling and buying live chickens," read the statement. The department said this was a successful preventative measure for small-scale farmers and backyard breeders.

The department has also worked closely with stakeholders and experts, looking at a vaccination strategy against bird flu as a control measure, but warning of its negative effects on trade. 

"[The department] is also working closely with the industry to promote ongoing food security through the importation of fertile broiler hatching eggs, thereby addressing the shortage in the market, while at the same time ensuring that such imports are allowed in a safe manner so as not to jeopardise the health status of our national poultry flock." 

Legislation is currently being drafted with guidelines on compensation of farmers affected by bird flu.

"It is important to note that compensation is at the discretion of the minister and only payable for losses suffered due to the destruction of healthy birds and eggs in an effort to eradicate the disease," read the statement.

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