Bird flu costs SA R4bn

Pretoria – The outbreak of the bird flu virus, commonly known as avian influenza, in the past few years has cost the country about R4 billion, says Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Speaking at the launch of the South African Veterinary Council Building in Pretoria on Tuesday, Minister Zokwana said: “We have, in the last few years, been plagued by disease outbreaks with negative trade consequences.

“I am told that our inability to trade from outbreaks of avian influenza had cost us around R4 billion.”

Minister Zokwana said a similar amount had been mentioned with regards to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in 2011, which has been resolved.

“Earlier this year, we had our FMD status reinstated. I would like to invite all stakeholders to join hands and work together to ensure that we strengthen veterinary services in our country,” he said.

Minister Zokwana said his department has reviewed the report of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) on the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS). They have further requested the OIE to perform a gap analysis and are now awaiting the organisation’s response.

“We are expecting the OIE to return to South Africa later this year to inspect our controls for FMD in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

“It is my take that at a minimum, this sector should seek to meet minimum standards set by this body,” he said.

Avian influenza

Bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ostrich and ducks very sick and kill them. Last year, there was an outbreak of bird flu on an ostrich farm near Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape.

Strains do not usually infect humans but several cases of human infection with bird flu viruses have occurred since 1997. Infected birds shed flu virus in their saliva, nasal secretions and faeces.

Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with contaminated excretions or surfaces that are contaminated with excretions.

It is believed that most bird flu infections in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces.

However, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission so far. – Nthambeleni Gabara, SAnews.gov.za



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