Government halts research into seabirds following avian influenza outbreak

(iStock)
(iStock)

All research activities involving the handling of seabirds have been halted across the country following the avian influenza outbreak among seabirds, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Friday.

The department said this was in an effort to manage the spread of the disease.

Spokesperson Zolile Nqayi urged members of the public to exercise caution when approaching seabirds, especially those found along the beach, and when visiting seabird colonies.

"Sick seabirds should be reported to the nearest local veterinarian, conservation authority or to permitted seabird rehabilitation centres," he said in a statement.

Nqayi said the department, together with all relevant management authorities, was managing seabird colonies and had implemented stringent biosecurity measures at various seabird rehabilitation centres, captive institutions and known breeding localities.

ALSO READ: Avian flu leads to industry losses of R954m - report

He said this was to address the spread of the H5N8 strain of the avian influenza that was affecting several seabird species, including swift terns, African penguins and Cape gannets, along the country's coastline.

The swift terns seemed to be the most affected seabird species, Nqayi said.

Declining seabird populations under pressure

He revealed that the "highly pathogenic" H5N8 avian influenza was the same strain reported in the poultry industry in 2017.

"This strain of bird flu has not been found to affect people, as was confirmed through testing of people in contact with infected chickens in South Africa in 2017.

"However, bird flu viruses can, in rare cases, cause infections in humans. Thus, strict biosecurity measures should be enforced and precautions should be taken when handling affected seabirds," Nqayi said.

He added that wild birds were carriers of the disease and were able to carry the disease through flyways.

"In seabirds, the disease is spread through direct contact between healthy and infected birds. Most seabird species live in colonies, and may contract the disease from each other, or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials."

The current outbreak has added more pressure on already declining seabird populations, he said.

"Processes are in place to ensure extended surveillance of infected seabirds."

Nqayi added that the department would exercise even stricter precautions and stringent biosecurity measures during preparation for a voyage to Marion Island in April.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, immediately!
36% - 1925 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
27% - 1453 votes
No, I don't think they need it
37% - 1970 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
14.55
(-0.52)
ZAR/GBP
20.60
(-0.48)
ZAR/EUR
17.75
(-0.63)
ZAR/AUD
11.62
(-0.54)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-0.33)
Gold
1792.75
(-0.57)
Silver
27.84
(-0.26)
Platinum
1256.00
(-0.34)
Brent Crude
66.41
(+2.64)
Palladium
2418.50
(-0.90)
All Share
67285.27
(+1.64)
Top 40
61801.49
(+1.74)
Financial 15
12430.03
(+0.61)
Industrial 25
86692.38
(+0.16)
Resource 10
69589.07
(+4.28)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo