Mystery disease spreads to domestic fowl in Eastern Cape, SPCA warns public not to eat their chicken

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The SPCA warned residents not to eat their domestic chickens if they died. (Photo: OJ Koloti/Gallo Images)
The SPCA warned residents not to eat their domestic chickens if they died. (Photo: OJ Koloti/Gallo Images)
  • A mysterious disease that has killed dozens of wild birds in Qonce, formerly King Willam's Town, has spread to domestic chickens.
  • The SPCA in Qonce has confirmed its five hens, a rooster and goose - which were in perfect health on Sunday - were found dead on Monday morning. 
  • This as the SPCA and Buffalo City Metro health services are trying to find out what caused the death of 75 birds in Qonce and an unknown number of others in East London and Ntabozuko.

A mysterious disease that has killed dozens of wild birds in Qonce, formerly King Willam's Town, has spread to domestic chickens.

The SPCA has confirmed its five hens, a rooster and goose - which were in perfect health on Sunday - were found dead on Monday morning. 

"They were fine on Sunday and on Monday morning, when we came to work, they were all dead," said its assistant manager, Inspector Annette Miller. 

"I am concerned now because it is domestic chickens that have been affected, so I am very worried. At the SPCA, we also feed wild birds so it is possible that when the wild birds came to eat, they brought the disease which has affected our birds," Miller added.

This as the SPCA and Buffalo City Metro health services are trying to found out what caused the death 75 birds in Qonce and unknown number of others in East London and Ntabozuko. 

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Last week, the metro and SPCA issued a warning to residents not to pick up birds that mysteriously dropped dead.

Miller said: "On Monday [5 April], I got hold of a doctor in Ntabankulu at the state vet department and they sent an animal health technician this morning [7 April] to fetch carcasses which they will send for testing."  

She added it was weird the chickens and the goose had died at the same time. 

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The SPCA warned residents not to eat their domestic chickens if they died. 

For the past three weeks, residents of the metro have reported birds lying dead on streets, balconies and school fields.  

Whatever it is that is killing the birds has now spread to Gqeberha in the Nelson Mandela Metro and St Francis Bay where eight deaths have been reported by Sandula Conservation.

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Neville Ganes from Neville's Snake and Reptile Rescue said the symptoms presented by sick birds included an inability to fly, tameness, loss of balance, disorientation, laboured breathing and being puffed up.  

Ganes together with the SPCA and Buffalo City Metro health services have collected a few carcasses and handed them over to the SPCA veterinary surgeon Karl Haggermann who sent them for testing.

The metro confirmed samples of the birds were sent to a state vet for testing. 

It previously said the deaths could be caused by anything from climate change, air pollution or migration but added it was still investigating the cause.

Ganes said initially he suspected poison was the cause of the deaths but as more were reported in large parts of the metro, he suspected a disease outbreak. 

Sandula Conservation owner Mark Marshall said: "I have advised the people to dispose of them [carcasses] correctly. I advised the public to wear a face mask and gloves when handling the dead birds. I have also advised the public not to feed wild birds in their gardens and to make sure their bird aviaries do not attract wild birds. I will inform the public about the results when they arrive."

The cases reported initially affected pigeons, doves and Cape bulbuls but over the Easter weekend, Ganes said he had picked up sacred ibises, cattle egrets and blue cranes at Grey Monument Hospital in Qonce. 

He raised concerns that a colony of egrets and blue cranes nestled at the hospital might get infected. 

"The area at the clinic reeks of bird droppings, a strong ammonia smell, which is very unhealthy. The health department must visit the hospital and BCM to assess it. The decease/virus is rapidly spreading. [Lab] results should be back later this week." 

The Eastern Cape health department has blamed the SPCA for the health hazard posed by the birds at the hospital. 

Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said its request to cut down the trees in order to chase away the birds was declined by the SPCA.

"The hospital authorities have been knocking on the doors of the SPCA requesting permission to fell those trees, however, that permission could not be granted. Last year, the hospital resorted to trimming the trees after permission from the SPCA and it came and rescued chicks."  

Miller could not be reached immediately to respond to the accusation. 


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