File picture: REUTERS
File picture: REUTERS

SA has suspended all bird and chicken imports from Zimbabwe following an outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza in one of the commercial chicken flocks.

Although SA imports very little poultry products from Zimbabwe, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it is on high alert and has heightened inspections of all consignments, including all private and public vehicles at all ports of entry, especially in and out of Zimbabwe.

On Thursday, department spokeswoman Bomikazi Molapo said all trade in live poultry, meat and table eggs has been suspended; the decision has been communicated to the Zimbabwean chief veterinary officer.

Molapo said all importers are notified that their import permits, or any permits which have not been used, should be returned to the department immediately.

"The Limpopo veterinary authorities are on high alert and have increased their surveillance, especially in backyard chickens," said Molapo. "Communities must be extremely vigilant, especially in areas of the Limpopo province that neighbour Zimbabwe, and report any unusual mortality of chickens or other birds to the state veterinary services immediately for samples to be collected."

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