Tuesday, March 20, 2018

South Africa: Media Reports Of Another Penguin Colony Hit By H5N8


Almost a month ago, in South Africa: Endangered African Penguins Hit By H5N8, we saw reports of H5N8 activity in six penguin colonies - producing both morbidity and mortality among the endangered birds - along the shores of the Western Cape.
Although outbreaks in commercial flocks have dropped dramatically since November of last year, reports of H5N8 in wild birds - particularly shore birds - has continued throughout their summer.
Today local media is reporting of a fresh outbreak at the Table Mountain National Park in Simon's Town, just south of Cape Town.   So far, South Africa's Department of Agriculture (DAFF) hasn't posted anything on their website. 

What we do have is this representative report from IOL

Avian Flu outbreak confirmed at Cape Town's Boulders penguin colony

20 March 2018, 3:08pm / Staff Reporter

Cape Town - The Table Mountain National Park has confirmed there is an outbreak of avian flu (bird flu) at the Boulders penguin colony in Simons Town.

"Table Mountain management would like to alert the public that several cases of bird flu in the penguin colony at Boulders have been confirmed by state veterinary services," TMNP spokesperson Merle Collins said.

"It is reiterated that this virus is a very low risk to humans, but is a real threat to domestic poultry. This strain of avian influenza virus (H5N8 strain) has been detected in a range of wild seabirds e.g. swift, sandwich and common terns, African penguins and gannets.

"The park is monitoring the situation closely and has now implemented the following precautions:

  • With the exception of visitors on Boulders Beach boardwalk, nobody may access the main breeding colony.
  • In instances where staff need to go off boardwalks to collect injured birds or hats, camera lens, caps etc dropped by visitors they will limit their access to essential work and then sterilise their boots afterwards - gum boots have been issued and are easier to clean than the normal boot.
  • Monitoring routes used for moult/nest counts have been reviewed to ensure that staff and Penguin monitors do not walk through the main breeding colony.
          (Continue . . . )

While penguins are are flightless birds and not long-distance vectors of avian flu -  other seabirds in the area are not - and could potentially spread the virus both locally, and globally via migratory flyways (see map below).

HPAI H5N8 arrived in South Africa for the first time last June, and rapidly spread to dozens of poultry farms, forcing the culling of millions of birds.  With fall's arrival in the Southern Hemisphere concerns over a repeat this winter are very real.

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