Zim avian flu outbreak: SA farmers must step up biosecurity

Following the recent avian flu outbreak in Zimbabwe, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) have urged SA poultry owners to implement basic biosecurity measures to prevent poultry from coming into contact with wild birds.

DAFF Spokesperson, Makenosi Maroo, said this outbreak did not directly affect South Africa, “but has caused us to be more vigilant with [regard to] our passive surveillance.

Avian influenza is transmitted by wild birds, and we cannot stop them from flying across the borders,” she said.

According to Kevin Lovell, CEO of SAPA, the virus has not affected any farmers in SA yet.

Poultry stakeholders in South Africa are working with Zimbabwean authorities to introduce a nation-wide contingency plan should the virus spread to this country.

The Botswana government had already banned poultry imports from Zimbabwe as a result of the outbreak, according to a statement published on its Facebook page.

According to a report in The Herald newspaper in Zimbabwe, one of that country’s largest poultry producers,  Irvine’s Zimbabwe Private Limited, has been placed under quarantine, and 140 000 birds had been culled following the outbreak.

More than 7 000 of the company’s birds had already succumbed to the disease.

Biosecurity measures recommended by DAFF include:

  • Limiting the number of people working in poultry houses on farms where poultry is suspected of being infected. Personnel dedicated to these areas should ideally not come into contact with those working in other non-infected houses and/or farms.
  • Disinfecting all vehicles entering and leaving farms, and ensuring that only essential vehicles enter farms with suspected infected birds.
  • Preventing clothing, including footwear, equipment and any other materials that may carry the virus from being moved between poultry houses or farms.
  • Burying manure on site and covering it with lime.
  • Using disinfectants such as glutaraldehyde, which are effective against the HPAI virus.
  • Avoiding any pools of water on farms that could attract wild birds, and preventing poultry from sharing water sources with wild birds.
  • Providing feed and water indoors for free-roaming birds or under a low solid roof.