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Status of Avian Influenza (AI) in the Western Cape

30 May 2011

Pretoria - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) managed to isolate a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the Western Cape's Klein Karoo in April. Following this isolation, reports to the trading partners and the International Animal Health Organization (OIE) were submitted. Exports of ostrich meat to the European Union (EU) had to be suspended immediately as a result of this incursion.

Since the isolation of the virus the Western Cape has conducted a massive surveillance campaign. Initially we had one farm and thus far an additional seven other farms, also in the Klein Karoo valley and in close proximity to the original infected farm, also tested PCR positive for the same virus and the ostriches on those farms are also going to be culled by way of controlled slaughter in the abattoir, where the skin and feathers are going to be harvested and processed and the meat will be processed into carcass meal.

A total of 10 000 ostriches have already been culled in this way during the current outbreak, and DAFF at this stage cannot estimate the total number that will be culled since the outbreak is on-going. More farms are being sampled and more results becoming available from the laboratory. This remains part of the outbreak and should not be viewed as a different outbreak.

Currently, the entire Klein Karoo valley, which represents about 70% of the ostrich industry, is affected and no movement of ostriches is allowed except to the abattoir for controlled slaughter.

This measure is aimed at containing the outbreak and preventing the spread of the infection to areas outside of the valley. The rest of the country can, however, move birds for slaughter for the local market if the farm of origin has tested negative within 28 days of slaughter.

The impact in the Klein Karoo valley is quite serious as this is the hub of Ostrich production and the economy of the area is based on this. The DAFF together with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the industry is currently working tirelessly to alleviate pressure with regards to socio-economic implications of the outbreak.

The DAFF hosted a team of experts last week from the EU, whose mission was to assist and not to inspect the control measures put in place. A report following this visit is awaited.

The Department wishes to convey its gratitude to the Western Cape Veterinary Authorities and the industry for the support in an effort to eradicate this disease before it affects the country's poultry population.

Source: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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