One of Zimbabwe's biggest poultry producers, Irvine's Private Limited, has culled 140 000 birds following an outbreak of avian influenza at its premises which killed 7 000 others, as the government quarantined the affected site to prevent the spread of the virus.
A press statement published by the company Tuesday said that the company had identified and contained a form of avian flu on an isolated site just outside Harare.
"Irvine's, together with the Zimbabwe Veterinary Department, have responded by placing the affected site under quarantine and the entire flock that was affected has been culled and disposed of in accordance with the relevant veterinary regulations," the company said.
Avian flu is a virus that occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds and affects domestic poultry and other birds and animals.
Principal director in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services Unesu Obatolu-Ushewokunze told state media that the outbreak involved the serotype H5 N8 of the avian flu virus which had been spreading around the world since 2010 but had not shown any risk to humans.
"All trade partners, veterinary authorities of neighboring countries and the World Organization for Animal Health have been notified as necessary," she said.
A statement by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, department of livestock and veternary services on Tuesday said stakeholders to the poultry industry were advised to take note of an outbreak "bird flu", affecting Irvine's Pvt Ltd, a major player in the white meat and egg sub-sector.
They said the outbreak involved the serotype H5 N8 of the Avian Influenza virus, which has been spreading in a second wave around the world since 2010. The virus has been re-introduced to Europe from Asia where it remained in continuous circulation and detected in Uganda among other countries in Africa, earlier this year.
"Influenza viruses are highly contagious and therefore spread very quickly in susceptible populations. The viruses occur naturally in wild water birds. However the viruses change dynamically and highly virulent strains can occur from time to time, causing major human and animal illness and death," said the Ministry of Agriculture.
Unlike other serotypes, which have caused concern in past years, H5 N8 wherever it has occurred recently, has not shown any risk to humans. The current outbreak at Irvine's is similarly, not seeming to affect people. It has however shown to be highly fatal in affected birds, with a nearly 70 percent death rate.