After HPAI H5N8 jumped from the West Coast to Africa to Uganda in early January, it began moving southward; making it to the shores of Lake Alfred in the DRC in May, followed by a large poultry holding in Zimbabwe in early June.
Fearing its imminent arrival, just over two weeks ago South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forests, and Fisheries (DAFF) put South Africa On Alert For HPAI H5N8.The official announcement came last Thursday; OIE: South Africa Reports Outbreak Of HPAI H5N8. Over the weekend DAFF published an update on the outbreak, and the steps they are taking to contain it.
MEDIA STATEMENT 24 JUNE 2017
UPDATE ON AVIAN INFLUENZA CONFIRMED IN MPUMALANGA
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 was confirmed in a broiler breeder site in Mpumalanga on Thursday 22 June 2017. HPAI is a rapidly spreading viral disease that can infect many types of birds and it is highly contagious. It exists naturally in many birds and canbe transmitted by coming into contact with infected animals or through ingestion of infected food or water.
The affected farm has been quarantined and culling of the affected animals has been completed. The department is conducting forward and backward tracing to trace movement of all poultry in and out of the farm in order to establish the source of the Influenza. The department has established a 30km control zone in Mpumalanga and Free State. The two Provinces are conducting surveillance in the 30km control zone for other potentially affected properties. All provinces have been notified and are on high alert.
The following control measures have been implemented to prevent spread of disease:
Our trading partners were formally notified of the outbreak in Mpumalanga. Trading partners require a declaration of country freedom of highly pathogenic avian influenza for trade in fresh poultry meat and unprocessed poultry products, which we are currently unable to provide due to the confirmation of HPAI on the Mpumalanga farm. Exports of processed poultry products, live chickens and fresh products from registered poultry compartments will continue depending on the requirements of the importing countries.
- A complete standstill of movement of poultry and poultry products on the infected farm(s). Nothing is to enter or leave the farm
- Birds at the infected sites will be euthanized humanely
- State Vets are conducting inspections starting with all the farms within a 3 km and a further 27 km (30km) radius around the affected farm to gather information on the health status of the birds.
- Poultry and poultry products may only move from these farms with a State Veterinary Permit
- We have placed a General ban on the sale of live spent hens across the country until further notice
To date, no human cases of infection with avian influenza H5N8 have been reported, however people handling wild birds, sick or dying poultry must wear protective clothing and wash their hands with disinfectants. Meat from healthy poultry is safe for consumption as it issubjected to strict meat inspection processes at abattoirs. We urge people to avoid consumption of birds found dead, dying or sick.
No effective treatment for the disease has been found. Infected animals must be humanely destroyed and disposed of properly to prevent the disease from spreading. If you suspect yourflock has contracted the disease, quarantine the affected birds and area immediately. Notify your nearest State Veterinarian of any suspected cases.
After more than 2,000 outbreaks in Europe over the winter, a handful of outbreaks in central and South Africa may not sound like such a big deal. But this is the first substantial introduction of HPAI H5 into the Southern Hemisphere, and that opens up possibilities for the virus whose impacts and future directions are difficult to predict.
- The virus may be able to meet, and reassort with, new LPAI viruses. HPAI H5 clade 188.8.131.52. has proven itself to be highly promiscuous, and fully capable of spinning off new subtypes, as it did last winter with H5N5 and H5N6 in Europe.
- HPAI H5N8 could find areas in interior Africa where - due to the right conditions, and/or a lack of surveillance and control measures - it could become endemic, as HPAI H5 has along the west coast of Africa and H5N1 has in Egypt.
- And lastly, interior and southern Africa lie under the intersection of 3 major global migratory flyways (see map below), meaning that the virus could find new directions in which to spread.
As we've seen time and again, bird flu is notorious for zigging when we expect it to zag.