South Africa Grapples with Widespread Avian Influenza Outbreaks

Avian Influenza Outbreak in South Africa

South Africa is facing a significant challenge with multiple outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strains H5 and H7.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD) have confirmed more than 50 cases across various regions in the country.

Immediate Reporting Urged

In response to the outbreak, the department has issued a plea to poultry farmers, urging them to promptly report any suspicion of avian influenza to the nearest State Veterinarian.

This swift reporting is essential for effective containment and control.

Outbreak Overview

As of September 21, 2023, South Africa has recorded a total of 50 HPAI H7 outbreaks and 10 HPAI H5 outbreaks.

Among these, Gauteng province has been hit the hardest, with 37 confirmed cases.

Other affected provinces include Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and the Free State, each reporting two cases, while Western Cape has documented one case.

Significant Losses

The impact of the outbreaks has been substantial.

The reported numbers indicate that 107,705 chickens have died, and 1,318,521 chickens have been culled, resulting in a total loss of 1,426,226 chickens.

Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal

The Western Cape province has been severely affected by the HPAI H5 outbreak, with seven reported outbreaks.

Additionally, three HPAI H5 outbreaks have been identified in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Biosecurity Measures Emphasized

To mitigate the risk of further outbreaks, the department has stressed the importance of enhanced biosecurity measures on poultry farms.

This includes measures to prevent contact with wild birds and their fecal material, which could potentially transport the virus.

Importation of Fertile Eggs and Vaccination

The department has facilitated the importation of fertile eggs for the broiler industry and is considering a similar request for table eggs.

Additionally, efforts are underway to facilitate the transit of fertile eggs to Eswatini for their broiler production.

Fast-Tracking Vaccine Registration

In response to the outbreak, the department has expedited the registration of vaccines.

However, it is emphasized that safety, efficacy, and quality will not be compromised during this process.

Quality and Efficacy of Vaccines

Due to the risk of the avian influenza virus mutating and potentially becoming zoonotic, the department has emphasized the importance of selecting vaccines based on stringent quality and efficacy parameters.

Criteria for vaccination are being finalized, and only farms meeting specific biosecurity and department-approved standards will be allowed to vaccinate.

This process will also involve surveillance for early detection of incursions and mandatory culling of vaccinated chickens.

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in South Africa underscores the need for vigilance and effective biosecurity measures in the poultry industry.

The country is taking measures to contain the outbreak and protect both poultry populations and public health.

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