South Africa hit with fifth bird flu outbreak

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Another case of avian influenza has been confirmed in South Africa
Another case of avian influenza has been confirmed in South Africa

Related tags South africa Livestock Poultry

A farm owned by one of South Africa’s biggest poultry processors, Astral Foods, has been hit with an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI). 

The Welbedacht Farm breeds boilers chickens for meat processor Astral Foods and one of the site’s 48 bird houses was struck with the H5N8 AI strain – the fifth outbreak in South Africa this year.

The farm has been placed under quarantine and the national and provincial Departments of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) have taken necessary precautions to stop the disease from spreading.

The outbreak is believed to have hit the farm in early August, and the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) confirmed the situation to GlobalMeatNews this week.

In statement to this site, a SAPA spokesperson said: “Despite the disease having affected countries in Europe, Asia as well as the United States of America since 2014, this series of outbreaks over the past few weeks is the first time the disease has been isolated in the country. SAPA, through the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA), continues to monitor the situation closely and will continue to engage with DAFF and other relevant stakeholders, such as the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA), on control measures for the disease.”

Good to know – SAPA’s new leader

After 11 years at the helm of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), Kevin Lovell stepped down this week to be succeeded by acting CEO Dr Charlotte Nkuna. Francois Baird, the founder of South Africa’s anti-dumping FairPlay movement, said Lovell’s passion and knowledge of the poultry sector made him an “invaluable partner”​ in the fight against chicken dumping that has crippled the county’s poultry sector. He added the body would “look forward to working more closely”​ with Dr Nkuna in the future. 

The association said the number of birds hit by AI still represented a small percentage of the country’s chicken flock and was unlikely to have a big impact on the supply of poultry products.

Gary Arnold, managing director of agriculture at Astral Foods, said earlier this month that the number of AI outbreaks in Mpumalanga presented a “serious threat”​ with several big poultry processing operations nearby.

He added: “It now appears that H5N8 is endemic to Mpumalanga and Gauteng, as the virus persists regionally within commercial poultry, wild birds and backyard chickens as evidenced by its confirmed presence across these provinces. Astral is actively engaging with government to regulate the use of vaccination programmes against the virus.”

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