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South African producers ‘unprepared’ for bird flu, expert says

South Africa’s poultry farmers are scrambling to boost biosecurity measures after being “caught out” by an outbreak of avian influenza, according one of the country’s top vets.

More than 4 million birds have been culled and a nationwide vaccination program is being considered after the highly pathogenic strain H5N8 was discovered in June, reports Fin24.

Now producers are working to prevent wild birds entering bird houses and implementing stricter movement protocols in an effort to control the disease from spreading further.

Veterinarian Greg Celliers of major commercial egg company Kuipers Group said producers weren’t prepared for an outbreak, and only now were they putting strict biosecurity measures in place.

These include restricting the movement of people, and disinfecting vehicles at farm fates.

“Before this virus we got away with being slack in certain instances. But now it is just no longer an option,” he said. “Now we have one standard enforced through all of our operations.

“That is the way chicken farming will be done in the future. It will change everything we do and farm.”

Celliers said debates over whether vaccination was possible appear to be stalling, as the vaccines that are available have not been tested on the H5N8 strain.

However, he said vaccines would provide some level of immunity.

Alan Winde, Western Cape’s MEC for Economic Opportunities, said the virus was still spreading rapidly in the province.

“Many farmers have been proactive with testing their flocks for early detection of avian influenza and culling them quickly in response to positive tests,” he added.

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Posted on January 8, 2018

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