WattAgNet: Avian flu leads South Africa to consider egg imports


New cases of avian influenza have been found in South Africa, Italy and the Netherlands

Since highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) arrived in South Africa in June, an estimated 15 percent of the country’s layer flock has succumbed to the disease, and the authorities are considering the need for future egg imports. Italy has also reported new outbreaks of HPAI among its poultry flocks, and low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) has returned to The Netherlands.

South Africa's struggle with avian flu

South Africa’s total number of outbreaks of HPAI caused by the H5N8 virus variant has now reached 92, based on reports from the veterinary authority to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The latest weekly report covers six new outbreaks in the commercial poultry sector between the end of August and September 9. These involved almost 789,000 animals, including one flock of 180,000 birds, and two groups of commercial ostriches. One of the affected farms was in Free State, but the others were in Western Cape Province.

Six out of seven recent HPAI outbreaks in South Africa’s hobby poultry flocks and wild birds were also in Western Cape Province, and one in Eastern Cape Province.

Four million chickens have already been destroyed as a result of HPAI or are scheduled for humane culling, according to Dr. Charlotte Nkuna, interim CAO of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA).

She told Randfontein Herald that this figure includes around 15 percent of the country’s laying flock, which stood at around 24 million before the disease hit. In addition, 360,000 broiler breeders and 31,000 layer breeders have also been lost to HPAI.

Table egg prices look set to rise by 15-20 percent, according to agricultural economist, Professor Johan Willemse.

Nkuna said that many are considering importing eggs but that their fragile and perishable nature mean freight costs could be prohibitive.

With poultry making up around 65 percent of South Africa’s feed tonnage, Liana Steenkamp of Laeveld Agrochem warned that the disease looks likely to impact the country’s feed industry. Together with lost egg sales to export markets, already 1,000 jobs have been lost as a direct result of HPAI.

Europe: Six new HPAI outbreaks in Italy

Italy’s battle with H5N8 HPAI began in January of this year, and the total number of outbreaks has reached 56, according to the Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety (IZSVe).

The latest eight outbreaks to be reported by the health ministry to the OIE involved 61,700 poultry, including four flocks of fattening turkeys, each of between 6,720 and almost 30,000 birds. Also affected were four mixed backyard flocks that included poultry. Six of the outbreaks were confirmed in the region of Lombardy, and the other two in Veneto.

In Piedmont, two dead swans found at different locations in the same province tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus.

The Netherlands’ animal health agency has reported to the OIE the return of LPAI for the first time since January of this year. A flock of 41,500 poultry in the south-western province of Zeeland has been humanely destroyed after the low-pathogenic H5N2 virus was detected earlier this month.

After a period without detecting HPAI viruses of the H5N8 variant in poultry or wild birds, or the H5N1 subtype in poultry, the French ministry of agriculture has declared to the OIE that the country is free of HPAI.

Asia: South Korea confirms LPAI in wild birds

The South Korean agriculture ministry has confirmed that the avian influenza viruses detected recently in wild bird droppings in Jeolla Province were low-pathogenic H5N2 and H6N2 subtypes.

Yonhap reports that while LPAI viruses cause only mild disease in poultry and may go undetected, the ministry has imposed a movement ban around these sites, and monitoring will be intensified as the migration season for wild birds gets underway.




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