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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Govt to import eggs and fast-tracks vaccines after lethal bird flu outbreak

The reported number of chickens culled at commercial farms due to the bird flu outbreak so far exceeds 1.3 million.


Government is planning to fast-track the use of vaccines to fight bird flu as South Africa deals with an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) with 50 confirmed cases of the HPAI H7 and 10 of the HPAI H5 strains.

Gauteng has been the hardest hit with HPAI H7 outbreaks with 37 reported cases, followed by Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Northwest with two cases each, while the Free state has one reported case.  

Bird flu cases in SA

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said 107,705 chickens had died so far.

Ngcobo said the reported number of chickens culled at commercial chicken farms so far exceeds 1.3 million.

“Based on these reported figures, there has been a total loss of 1,426,226 chickens.”

Ngcobo added that the Western Cape had been the hardest hit by the HPAI H5 outbreak with seven cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal.

“The number of chickens that have died from this strain outbreak is 98,249 while just over 1.1 million had been culled: A total loss of 1,254,532 chickens.”

Ngcobo said the number of newly detected H7 and H5 PCR positive farms are increasing.

 “Industry is thus requested to ensure the utmost biosecurity on poultry farms to reduce the risk of introduction.”

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Eggs

Ngcobo added that the department has facilitated the importation of fertile eggs for the broiler industry, a similar request for the table eggs will be considered if received.

“We are also facilitating the transit to eSwatini of fertile eggs for their broiler production. With regards to vaccination, the Department met with vaccine registration regulators and the agreement reached is that the registration of vaccine will be fast tracked, but the safety, efficacy and quality will not be compromised.

Vaccination

Ngcobo said due to the high probability of the avian flu virus mutating and becoming zoonotic, care needs to be taken on the quality and efficacy parameters of the vaccine chosen for use in this exercise.

“The criteria under which vaccination will be permitted is almost in its final development, and only farms with good biosecurity and approved to vaccinate by the department will be given permission to vaccinate. The other requirements for vaccination will be surveillance to enable early detection of incursion and mandatory slaughter of vaccinated chickens.”

The department has urged farmers to report any suspicion of bird flu to the nearest veterinarian.

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