WattAgNett: South Africa struggles to control avian flu



ON OCTOBER 8, 2017

 While highly pahtogenetic avian influenza (HPAI) continues to add to the pressure on South Africa’s already troubled poultry industry, new outbreaks of the disease have also been reported in recent weeks in Taiwan, Vietnam and Italy.

Following earlier outbreaks of HPAI and then a period without detection of the virus, veterinary authorities in Niger, Belgium and the United Kingdom have declared their respective countries to be free of the disease.

Since the first cases of H5N8 HPAI were confirmed in South Africa three months ago, there have now been 67 confirmed outbreaks of the disease among the country’s poultry, ostrich and wild bird populations, according to official reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

There were 15 new outbreaks in the commercial sector between mid-August and September 22, affecting close to 2.08 million birds. One outbreak was in Eastern Cape Province but all other cases were in Western Cape Province. Four commercial ostrich flocks are reported to have been infected, along with one of 4,000 commercial ducks and two small backyard farms. In most cases, “birds” is the official description of the affected flocks.

In addition, South Africa’s veterinary authority has also informed OIE about the recent detection of the H5N8 HPAI virus in other birds in Western Cape Province. In nine separate outbreaks, these include wild birds as well as hobby flocks of chickens and/or geese.

News of avian influenza is brighter from other African countries, based on official OIE reports. Niger has self-declared the country free to both H5N1 and H5N8 HPAI following earlier outbreaks in the Tillaberi region. Despite intensive surveillance nationwide, Cameroon continues to detect no H5N1 or H5N8 viruses in poultry or wild birds, and no outbreaks have occurred in Nigeria since early August.

In Zimbabwe, surveillance of neighboring farms continues following an outbreak of H5N8 HPAI at a large commercial chicken farm in Lanark. While the farm remains in quarantine, there is no evidence that the virus has spread to other locations.

Asia: New HPAI outbreaks in Taiwan, Vietnam

Continuing its struggle to bring HPAI under control, Taiwan reported a further two outbreaks of the disease caused by the H5N8 virus variant to the OIE. The virus was detected during routine tests of two groups of native chickens at slaughterhouses in New Taipei City and in Taipei City at the start of last month. The carcasses were destroyed, the abattoirs disinfected, and the birds traced back to their farms of origin.

After an absence of five months, the H5N6 HPAI has been detected again in Vietnam. According to the official report to the OIE, latest to be affected was a 4,700-bird backyard flock in Kon Tum province in central Vietnam.

OIE has been informed by the animal health agency in Malaysia of a further 25 outbreaks of HPAI affecting almost 15,000 poultry during the month of March 2017. The H5N1 virus was detected in each case, and all occurred in the state of Kelantan in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia.

After officially reporting five outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI during July, there have been no recent cases in Laos, according to the latest veterinary authority report to the OIE, and Myanmar has sent a “final report” after H5N1 outbreaks in two areas in the same month.

In South Korea, a low-pathogenic form the H7N7 avian influenza virus has been detected in wild bird droppings, reported Yonhap two weeks ago. The agriculture ministry has ordered biosecurity measures to be stepped up as a precaution, particularly as the Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in PyeongChang in February next year.

Europe: Five more HPAI outbreaks in Italy

Over the last three weeks, there have a further five outbreaks of HPAI caused by the H5N8 virus subtype in Italian poultry flocks, bringing the country’s total so far this year to 41.

According to the Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety (IZSVe), the latest cases were confirmed in a mixed backyard flock of 46 birds in the province of Cremona in Lombardy on September 28. Just two days previously, the same virus had been confirmed at three farms in the Veneto region, two with fattening turkeys (around 30,000 and 8,400 birds), and one farm with 8,200 female ducks and around 4,000 growing birds that included chickens, guinea fowl and ducks. An agri-tourism unit with around 1,400 free-range geese and ducks in the Padua province of Veneto was hit by H5N8 HPAI on September 11.

A wild swan found dead near Lake Como in Italy’s Lombardy region in early September has also tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus variant, according to a report from the Department for Veterinary Public Health to the OIE.

After a three-month absence from France, the H5N3 low-pathogenic avian influenza virus was detected at a turkey breeder in the region of Maine-et-Loire in the west of the country at the end of September. At the time of the report to the OIE, the 8,500 birds were scheduled for humane destruction after a drop in egg production and detection of the virus.

Belgium’s Federal Agency for Safety in the Food Chain has declared the country free of avian influenza to the OIE after no new cases since two H5N8 outbreaks in the hobby sector in June this year.

A similar declaration has also been made to the OIE by the veterinary authority in the United Kingdom following isolated cases in a backyard flock and wild birds at least three months ago.

The H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in a total of seven wild birds at three locations in September, the Swiss authorities have reported to the OIE.

China: Two recent human avian flu cases

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection reports that there has been two new confirmed cases of avian influenza A (H7N9) in China in recent weeks. The latest cases — in Liaoning and Hunan provinces — bring the global total to 1,564 since March of 2013, and Mainland China’s count to 758 since October last year.


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