Farmers and bird owners in the Western Cape have been urged to exercise caution around the bird flu virus by maintaining strict biosecurity measures.
Alan Winde, MEC for Economic Opportunities, said no new outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain have been detected since October last year on previously uninfected chicken farms, but that the strain has been positively identified in multiple wild bird species.
In a statement, Winde said that in total, 95 cases of the virus had been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health. These included 18 backyard or hobby properties, 39 ostrich farms, 22 commercial farms and 21 cases of wild birds.
“Bird flu positive swift terns have been reported from five sites and suspicious deaths of other seabird species are currently under investigation,” Winde said. “Once confirmed, and if positive, these cases will be officially reported.
“A number of ostrich farms remain under quarantine, and we continue to find evidence that they were infected, although the virus has seldom been found to still be present. Ostriches do not die from the H5N8 virus, and very few birds have been reported to have symptoms.”
Winde appealed to farmers and bird owners to exercise extreme caution. “This virus has already had a major impact on the economy in our province, and it is likely to remain with us in 2018. If we are going to ensure that it remains under control, particularly amongst poultry, we need farmers, bird hobbyists and members of the public alike to all play an active role.
“It is imperative that bird owners and farmers limit contact with wild birds and remove items that may attract wild birds from their properties. There is no evidence that the virus has any impact on humans, but we urge members of the public to use gloves when handling any dead bird carcasses found in their gardens and to report any suspicious bird deaths to the state vet.”