23 October 2017

South Africa: Agriculrure, Forestry and Fisheries On Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

press release

DAFF interventions to assist farmers to containthe spread of HPAI

Since the first case of HPAI was confirmed in a broiler breeder operation near Villiers, Mpumalanga in June 2017, a number of other poultry and ostrich operations, as well as wild bird species, hobby birds and backyard chickens have subsequently been infected with HPAI.

To date, a total of ninety two (92) locations have been identified that tested positive for HPAI H5N8, and reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Mpumalanga province has reported a total of 11 outbreaks, Gauteng 13, North West 2, Free State 2, Kwa-Zulu Natal 1; Eastern Cape 2 and 61 in the Western Cape. The affected birds are divided into distinct categories - commercial poultry, backyard poultry, ostriches, hobby birds and wild birds.

Two out of the nine provinces, Limpopo and the Northern Cape Province, have not been affected by HPAI H5N8. The largest numbers of HPAI H5N8 outbreaks are on commercial farms and the highest numbers of wild bird outbreaks have been reported in the Western Cape Province.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) has been working very closely with several role players on critical issues related to the control of the outbreak of HPAI in South Africa; to find the best means to protect consumers and support poultry farmers.

Quarantine, culling and safe disposal of infected chickens and other poultry as soon as possible after detection of infection, is the most effective way to eradicate and to stop the spread of disease. The movement of live commercial chickens from HPAI affected properties is not allowed and this is controlled and enforced by the Provincial Veterinary Services. This has been effective in preventing the spread of the disease directly from one HPAI affected property to another. To date, none of the outbreaks could be directly linked to the movement of live birds from an affected farm.

A system was introduced to allow for movement of healthy live chickens for purposes other than for slaughter. Provincial Veterinary Services issued health attestations for small scale farmers and distributors of live chickens and the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) was authorised by DAFF to register and keep records of all parties selling and buying live chickens. This has so far been effective to prevent the spread of the disease to small scale farmers and backyard breeders on a large scale.

The issue of vaccination against HPAI has been discussed with various stakeholders, including the commercial poultry industry. Currently DAFF in collaboration with the poultry industry, is investigating how a vaccination strategy could be incorporated as a control measure for specific groups of birds on farms that will be able to implement the necessary safety measures and testing schedule. Inputs of vaccine manufacturers and international experts have been taken into account. This measure might decrease the effects of the HPAI outbreak on the short term but might have a negative effect on trade. An exit strategy to withdraw vaccination once the threat of HPAI is passed is also under discussion.

Discussions on how to safeguard rare and endangered birds in zoos were held with organisation representing these valuable bird collections. A protocol is currently been finalised for exemption of culling of these birds and a vaccine strategy to protect the birds from dying.

DAFF is also working closely with the industry to promote ongoing food security through the importation of fertile broiler hatching eggs, thereby addressing the shortage in the market, while at the same time ensuring that such imports are allowed in a safe manner so as not to jeopardise the health status of our national poultry flock. The Department and Industry task team has finalised the protocol and this will then be negotiated with trade partners who are already trading with South Africa and recognised as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza free.

Guidelines to clearly explain and outline the principles regarding compensation of farmers on farms affected by HPAI in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act No 35 of 1984) are in the process of being drafted. It is important to note that compensation is at the discretion of the Minister and only payable for losses suffered due to the destruction of healthy birds and eggs in an effort to eradicate the disease. Compensation in terms of the Animal Diseases Act is not a farmer support initiative and therefore should not be confused with such initiatives.

DAFF provides regular updates on the outbreak to Provincial Veterinary Services and the industry as soon as the information has been confirmed. This is aimed at preventing inaccurate information from being disseminated.

DAFF also fulfils its mandate and obligations in terms of international requirements of reporting on the outbreak. The export of poultry and poultry products from South Africa is supported and promoted by providing regular update reports to trade partners and negotiating with them on requirements that can still enable South African clients to maintain export markets.

Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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