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Bird flu in SA

Concerns were raised as numerous reports and articles have been published on media platforms regarding a virus outbreak of Bird Flu in SA and regions such as Mpumalanga, KZN and the Free State.

On the 26th of June, Timeslive stated that a second case of Avian Influenza, otherwise known as Bird Flu, was confirmed in Standerton, Mpumalanga. DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) confirmed that the pathogenic H5H8 was confirmed at a broiler farm. Previously, the same strain of virus was initially reported on a poultry farm near Villiers on Thursday, the 22nd of June, but the two incidents were not linked.

Apparently, the farm in Standerton has been placed under quarantine and over 25 000 infected birds will be culled. The department added that eggs will also not move out of the farm and that the situation will be closely monitored for 14 days as it takes approximately 4 days for the infected bird to show clinical signs of the disease.

On the 27th of June, Timeslive reported that the government launched a countrywide ban on the sale of live poultry to try and contain an outbreak of bird flu in SA and all provinces have been notified and should be on high alert. Although the two outbreaks in Mpumalanga were confirmed by the Department of DAFF, a false WhatsApp-message was circulated throughout KZN and citizens were concerned about a possible outbreak in the province as well.

The message reads as follows, “KZN chicken has bird flu. It’s not safe to buy chicken – 90 000 chicken contaminated. Please do not purchase any chicken. Please send to family and friends urgently.” Spokesperson for Department of DAFF, Bomikozi Molapo confirmed to Timeslive, on the 28th of June, that there is no truth in this message and that it is indeed false. Currently, no positive confirmation of Bird Flu has been reported in KZN.

Avian Influenza exists naturally in many birds and can be transmitted by contact with infected animals or through ingestion of infected food or water. DAFF is urging commercial and backyard farmers to report any cases of large numbers of birds dying to their nearest state veterinarian and the department will allocate officials to conduct investigations and the collection of samples for confirmation.

For local consumers, the question arised that eventhough we are safe in Mkhondo, with no Bird Flu outbreaks, the chicken we consume does not come from locally based business, how can one be sure of the safety for consumption? According to the spokesperson from the local State Veterinarian office, the chicken you buy in a supermarket is safe for consumption because it goes through an intensive process before it is packed on the shelves.

If the chicken does not have a branded name, for example, Rainbow Chicken, it might not be safe. Do not buy chicken from a backyard farmer or directly from the streets as these birds did not go through the necessary tests required. If you suspect an outbreak or notice a large number of dead chickens, report the matter to the local State Veterinarian office at 017 826 2103.

Extreme measures are put into place to prevent further outbreaks or unintended spreading of this Influenza and a 30 km control zone is being monitored in Mpumalanga and the Free State.

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