Once again South Africa has been hit by a highly pathogenic H5N8 Avian Influenza, commonly referred to as bird flu. The avian influenza outbreak across Mpumalanga, Gauteng, and the free state in South Africa is a threat to livelihood and food security to families residing in that region. This was confirmed by Astral, a South African poultry producer.
To reduce the spread of the epidemic, farms are quarantined, movement of the chicken restricted. While thousands are culled. The Minister, Senzeni Zokwana announced the suspension of the sale of live chicken in South Africa and placed an importation ban on neighbouring countries Namibia and Zimbabwe. 260,000 chickens were culled and the two affected farms have been placed in isolation.
South Africa does not stand alone in this battle as this outbreak is also battled in china as the Mongolia region has culled 66,500 chickens following an outbreak that affected 35,000 birds. The virus was confirmed at a hen farm in Tongliao city, which has 15,000 birds. As stated in their website.
The financial impact of the outbreak in South Africa is not yet known though the poultry producer said the first outbreak cost the company around 25 million rand. The impact was also felt in the poultry markets, as live poultry markets were shut down in many provinces following human infections. Egg producers were forced to keep their hens beyond prime time because demand plunged.
According to statistics, as at 1st August 2017, there has been a total of 859 recorded cases of bird flu and 453 recorded death between 2003-2017. So far, 35 countries has been hit by bird flu, and according to ornithologist, only Australia and New Zealand stand a chance of staying out the league of bird flu infected countries, because Australia and New Zealand do not lie in the path of bird migration.
A research carried out shows that migrating birds can help spread deadly strains of avian flu around the world and deadly bird flu strains – known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – can kill up to 100% of birds they infect. In recommendation, experts say, monitoring migration routes of wild birds could help early warning of potential bird flu outbreaks.
Also most outbreaks of avian influenza can be linked to movements of poultry, poultry manure, poultry by-products and accidental transfer of infected material such as bird droppings, bedding straw or soil on vehicles, equipment, cages or egg flats, clothes and shoes. Worldwide, unregulated movement of poultry is the most important way that the disease is spread.