Most South African poultry, egg farmers unaffected by avian influenza

There are two strains causing outbreaks: H5N1 and H7N6
calendar icon 26 October 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Cabinet in South Africa has noted that the majority of independent poultry and egg producers have not been affected by avian influenza, as several South African farmers work around the clock to curb the outbreak, according to the South African government news agency.

This is according to the Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who said they were updated on containment measures to limit the spread and impact of avian influenza.

“Cabinet has noted that majority of independent poultry and egg producers have not been affected by avian flu,” he said during a briefing to the media.

The outbreak, according to the Minster, has “severely” affected the economy and the poultry sector.

“The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, has met with retailers and the South African Poultry Association to discuss possible solutions in the short and the medium term to increase egg and chicken supply,” said Ntshavheni.

The NICD said there are currently two different strains that are causing avian influenza outbreaks in South Africa, these are influenza A(H5N1) and influenza A (H7N6).

The public health institute noted that the current influenza A(H5N1) has been ongoing since April 2023.

Meanwhile, the NICD said the influenza A(H7N6) has been reported since June 2023, with 50 outbreaks to date recorded in poultry farms in the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal and non-poultry birds in Gauteng.

“Internationally, sporadic cases of influenza A(H5N1) infection have been reported in humans, related to outbreaks in birds but infection in humans remains very rare,” it said in a statement.

Globally, the NICD said only eight cases of influenza A(H5N1) in humans have been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2023, despite large outbreaks in poultry and wild birds across the globe.

“These cases have been linked to close contact with infected birds such as handling, culling, slaughtering or processing.

“Current circulating strains of avian influenza have not been shown to transmit from person to person.”

However, the institute said the risk of transmission of influenza A(H5N1) and influenza A(H7N6) from infected birds to humans is extremely low.

“In the uncommon instance where avian influenza is transmitted to humans, the most common route of transmission of avian influenza is airborne, through aerosolisation of virus particles from live birds or during the culling process.”

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