SA bans chicken imports from Zimbabwe

Cape Town - South Africa has immediately suspended all trade in live poultry, meat and table eggs from Zimbabwe over an outbreak of bird flu.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) announced on Thursday that their veterinary service was notified last week of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in one of the commercial chicken flocks in Zimbabwe. 

The virus has been typed as H5N8.

In march this year South Africa, along with several other countries, also cracked the whip on some meat and poultry imports from Brazil over a rotten meat scandal.

Brazil, which is the world’s largest beef and chicken exporter, announced at the time that they were investigating evidence that producers bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of tainted meat.

News24 reported on Wednesday that Botswana also banned poultry products from Zimbabwe, where 7 000 chickens died and 140 000 slaughtered from top poultry and egg producer, Irvine's, to curb the spread of the disease.

Although South Africa imports very little chicken products from Zimbabwe, DAFF said all importers were immediately notified that their import permits should be returned to the department with immediate effect. 

“We have heightened inspections of all consignments, including all private and public vehicles at all our ports of entry, especially in and out of Zimbabwe,” said Minister Senzeni Zokwana' spokesperson, Bomikazi Molapo, in a statement.

She cautioned communities in areas of Limpopo, which neighbours Zimbabwe, to be extremely vigilant.

Molapo said they should report any unusual mortality of chickens or other birds to the State Veterinary Services for samples to be collected. 

“The Limpopo Veterinary Authorities are on high alert and have increased their surveillance especially in backyard chickens.”

Keepers of chickens, geese and ducks, including backyard farmers, are encouraged to observe minimum biosecurity measures to prevent this disease in their birds. These steps include:

  • Limiting exposure to wild birds by providing feed and water indoors or at least well underneath a low solid roof;
  • Care should be taken to prevent chickens drinking from common water sources where wild birds congregate.

Commercial farmers have also been called on increase their biosecurity measures on farms, such as limiting access to people who might have had contact with birds and chickens outside the farm.

The DAFF said clinical and serological surveillance should also be increased and any abnormal morbidity and mortalities must be immediately reported to State Veterinary Services.

It added that no farmer should allow their chickens to be vaccinated.

South Africa prohibits the vaccination of chicken against Notifiable Avian Influenza and no vaccine against this disease is registered in the country.  

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