The bird flu (HPAi H5N8) outbreak has spread to Mpumalanga and the Western Cape and led to calls for widespread vaccination.
On 7 August 2017 a case of HPAI H5N8 was detected in a commercial layer farm in Mpumalanga Province in the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality. Control measures were applied and all birds culled.
Just two days later, the first cases of HPAI H5N8 in ostriches were confirmed in two commercial ostrich farms in the Western Cape Province in the Hessequa Local Municipality. Quarantine has been instituted and the application of disease control measures have commenced.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian influenza (HPAI), type H5N8, in two ostrich farms in the Heidelberg area.
Avian influenza is a controlled disease in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 35 of 1984, and vets from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture detected HPAI during routine testing.
There are around 1 000 ostriches on both farms.
To ensure the accuracy of the first test, and because the ostriches are not showing any clinical signs of the illness, vets continued their testing campaign. There have been no reported bird deaths in the area.
At this stage, it appears that the incidence has been confined to the two properties. Farms within 3km of the affected farms will be placed under quarantine and testing in the surrounding areas will continue.
No decision to cull has been taken and discussions are ongoing. It is suspected that wild birds are the source of the infection.
These recently detected outbreaks bring the total number of outbreaks to 16; eight of which were in commercial chickens, three outbreaks in wild birds, two outbreaks in commercial ostrich, two outbreaks in backyard poultry and one outbreak in birds that were kept as a hobby.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has received requests to vaccinate and these requests are under consideration. Currently, vaccination against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is prohibited for the long-term benefit of the poultry industry at large.
The department has applied for additional funding to deal with the disease control measures, including compensation where applicable.