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Latest information on H5N2 Avian Influenza

18 February 2005

Latest information on H5N2 Avian Influenza amongst ostriches in South Africa.

Since the first isolation of an avian influenza, H5N2 , no new infections or presence of the H5N2 AI-virus were detected in South Africa.

In August 2004, a H5N2 AI-virus was isolated on one farm in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The Eastern Cape is responsible for between 15 and 20% of ostrich production in South Africa. The South African Department of Agriculture reacted to eradicate the virus by culling ostriches on the farm and on other farms through forward and backward tracing.

A number of farms, outside the Eastern Cape did show positive antibody titres during a national survey, which was initiated shortly after the outbreak. None of the farms experienced massive mortalities associated with AI in poultry. Repeated testing on these farms revealed constant or declining serum antibody levels, and with no active virus detection.

Due to the fact that little is known about AI in ostriches, and most of the research and experience are based on poultry (chicken), the South African Ostrich Business Chamber invited international experts to share their views, experience and expertise with the South African ostrich and poultry industries, as well as with technical specialists from the Department.

According to the reports by the “World Health Organisation”, the OIE and the South African Institute for Communicable Diseases, the H5N2-virus poses almost no risk to humans as humans do not have receptors for the virus in their respiratory tract. It is not similar to the H5N1 –virus affecting parts of Asia, with unfortunate associated human deaths.

During the testing and subsequent culling action of ostriches and poultry combating the disease in the Eastern Cape, it was also found that other poultry (chickens) were not affected by the H5N2-virus or showed any antibodies.

The ostrich industry assembled an AI Task Team to manage and co-ordinate industry efforts to design and put new control measures in place, in collaboration with the Government.

Source: South African Ostrich Business Chamber

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