Senzeni Zokwana.  Picture: GCIS
Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GCIS

SA has already culled 260,000 birds, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Thursday, as the country deals with an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu.

However, he said, vaccinating poultry against the deadly avian influenza would not be in the best interests of either the country or producers.

At a media briefing, Zokwana announced that the sale of live chickens would be restricted until local veterinarians could declare the country’s poultry free from the feared disease.

Zokwana said there had been several calls to permit vaccination against the disease.

Poultry vaccines can prevent healthy chickens from contracting deadly strains of bird flu.

"I have been advised by my team of experts that this will not be in the best interest of both the country and the producers," said Zokwana.

He explained that vaccination of birds would create an endemic situation, affect surveillance efforts and affect SA’s export certification because all its trade partners wanted only products from a country that was free of avian influenza and where vaccination was not practised.

A second case of avian influenza was confirmed in Mpumalanga this week, at a layer farm in Standerton.

It said the virus was the same strain as the initial case reported on a poultry breeder farm near Villiers last Thursday, but that the tw3o farms were not linked‚ meaning that the latest case was a separate introduction.

Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia have all halted imports of poultry products from SA.

Zokwana said in order to contain the disease, the department’s team had called for the restrictions on the sale of live chickens.

The affected farms have been placed under quarantine and the affected birds culled and the eggs destroyed.

Approximately 260,000 birds had been culled, Zokwana said.

In order to contain the spread of the disease, Zokwana said, buyers or sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered abattoir will be subjected to conditions including registering with the Poultry Disease Management Agency.

He said farmers may only sell live chickens certified as healthy by a veterinarian or Animal Health Technician.

Only registered sellers and buyers will be allowed to trade, and it is the responsibility of both the seller and the buyer to ensure their counterpart is registered.

Traders may sell only healthy chickens and must keep records as prescribed.

"These conditions apply to sellers of live broiler chickens, live spent layer hens, live spent breeder birds, point of lay pullets and any chickens that may fall into these categories.

"The conditions also apply to any buyers and traders who buy more than five live chickens that fall into the above categories….

"Depending on the level of compliance that is achieved with these conditions, the director of animal health will review future requirements for blanket bans," said Zokwana.

The minister said meat that was on the shelves was safe to eat as it had gone through a process of inspection and had been certified fit for human consumption.

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