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Agriculture warns against bird flu

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Having learned of an outbreak of bird flu in Zimbabwe, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a strong warning to poultry farmers in the province and citizens to guard against any symptoms of the disease.
Director of Communications in the department, Selby Makgotho said although no cases of bird flu have been reported in the province, citizens should be alert and visit health institutions when they observe unusual symptoms.
He further informed that South Africa has suspended poultry trade relations with Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of citizens.
According to Makgotho, Limpopo has never experienced bird flu before and he assured citizens that Agriculture and other government departments have joined forces and are ready to fight the disease if it gets to the province.
“People should not eat chickens that were found dead because they don’t know the cause of the death. We are already taking precautionary measures and residents should not panic because we are more than ready to fight the disease,” he cautioned. Makgotho further indicated that migratory birds carry bird flu and encouraged poultry farmers to closely monitor their chickens and other birds.
Health Department Spokesperson Thabiso Teffo emphasised that when there are such outbreaks in neighbouring countries, health teams are deployed to borders to test and monitor immigrants. He added that health teams are on high alert and ready to deal with the disease. Teffo also confirmed that no cases were reported in the province and assured residents that health experts will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the illness does not reach Limpopo.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Veterinary Services issued a media statement last Thursday notifying citizens of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI, ‘bird flu’).
In the statement, the department said keepers of chickens, geese and ducks, including backyard farmers, are encouraged to observe minimum biosecurity measures to prevent this disease in their birds, such as limiting exposure to wild birds by providing feed and water indoors or at least well underneath a low solid roof.
Care should be taken to prevent chickens drinking from common water sources where wild birds congregate.
Commercial farmers are also encouraged to increase their biosecurity measures on farms, including limiting access to people who might have had contact with birds and chickens outside the farm. Clinical and serological surveillance should also be increased and any abnormal morbidity and mortalities must be immediately reported to State Veterinary Services.
South Africa has prohibited vaccination of chickens against Notifiable Avian Influenza and no vaccine against this disease is registered in the country. The department warned farmers not to allow their chickens to be vaccinated.

Story: ENDY SENYATSI
>>endy@observer.co.za