July 13, 2021


Bird flu outbreak in South Africa tapers



A bird flu outbreak in South Africa appeared to be brought under control, a relief to the country's already embattled poultry industry.


"The amount of [avian flu] incidents have reduced markedly with only one outbreak recorded in the last three weeks," Izaak Breitenbach, the general manager of industry body SA Poultry Association (Sapa), said.


The recent outbreak of the highly contagious avian flu, which was first detected in April, affected commercial farms in various provinces including Gauteng, the Western Cape and the North West. It led to neighbouring countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Mozambique, implementing temporary bans on the import of local broilers and eggs in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.


The outbreak threatened to decimate the sector which has been on the back foot largely due to cheap imports mainly from Europe and Brazil. In addition to reduced demand due to a economic crisis, the sector has been hit hard in recent months by a rise in production costs, threatening its viability.


The poultry industry is the largest segment of South Africa's agricultural sector.


Breitenbach said the avian flu has peaked and the infection rate is diminishing.


"To date, during the first peak, fewer farms were affected than in 2017 most likely due to improved disease management by industry having learned valuable lessons from the 2017 outbreak," he said.


Breitenbach added that only in one case did the disease spread from farm to farm during the recent outbreak.


"The virus is still very active in wild birds specifically in the Western Cape ... having learned from the 2017 outbreak, [we understand] the disease is not a thing of the past, but we expect a second wave of infections, and then once that has run its course, we expect the virus to linger in wild birds for up to 12 months. It is my view that the disease is incredibly well managed by producers, private veterinarians and the veterinarians from the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development," Breitenbach said.


- Business Day

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