University of Pretoria researchers are working with the poultry industry and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to contain the current bird flu outbreak in South Africa.
The H5N8 variant of bird flu, more correctly known as highly pathogenic avian influenza, has been reported around the world. So far, four farms in South Africa have been affected by H5N8. The disease is spread by wild bird populations, and the movement of infected poultry and contaminated clothing, shoes, equipment and vehicles. Current control measures include quarantines, movement controls, increased biosecurity and increased surveillance.
“It is important for everyone involved including consumers, to be informed about the available options and the measures in place to curb the spread,” said Professor Celia Abolnik, Research Chair: Poultry Health and Production in the Department of Production Animal Studies.
Abolnik is recognised internationally as the sub-regional expert in bird flu, and has been intimately involved in diagnosis and research for this disease. She is an expert in advanced genetic characterisation of influenza virus strains.
Members of the South African Veterinary Poultry group, a network of poultry specialists, has been meeting regularly, to assist in containing the virus and to discuss how to avoid future outbreaks, together with DAFF, the South African Poultry Association and other stakeholders.
“Poultry meat and eggs available commercially in supermarkets are completely safe and have not come from any H5N8 infected flock. The public is urged to remain vigilant and report sick or dead birds, including poultry and wild birds, to their local state veterinarian,” said Professor Abolnik.
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