Deadly bird flu hits second Astral farm
Astral Foods says a second outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu virus has been confirmed and isolated at its poultry-breeding facility at the Grootdraai dam near Standerton in Mpumalanga.
The poultry producer said the new outbreak on the farm Welbedacht was "completely unrelated" to an earlier outbreak of the H5N8 flu strain in June at one of its poultry-breeding farms in Villiers near the Vaal River. Welbedacht is similar in size to the Villiers farm, having 48 poultry sheds.
It is believed the virus poses little risk to humans.
"At this juncture the impact has been limited to only one poultry shed on the farm, and this outbreak is being managed with extreme care on the back of experiences gained with the first outbreak at Villiers," Gary Arnold, Astral’s MD of agriculture, said on Wednesday.
The infection had affected breeding stock and not broiler birds used for meat production.
Not including the new case, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has confirmed 10 outbreaks of the virus. Four of these have been reported in commercial poultry operations, three in wild birds, one in captive birds and two in backyard poultry flocks.
Astral said the protection of high-value poultry breeding stock in SA was imperative to prevent large-scale financial losses, ensure food security and prevent job losses. Group CEO Chris Schutte said on Wednesday he trusted the government would act swiftly in approving the use of vaccines against the virus in poultry-breeding stock.
South African Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell said on Wednesday investigations indicated the disease had been transferred from migratory wild birds to wild birds in SA.
"What is still outstanding is to determine how the disease has been transferred … to poultry. Following the experience in Europe and elsewhere, the risks of infection will remain high until the summer," he said.