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Mossel Bay avian influenza is under control
posted by admin on 20/07/06

Avian influenza detected in poultry north west of Mossel Bay is under control.

The Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

"The virus has been classified as type H5N2 which is not known to infect humans, unlike the H5N1 virus that has caused disease in humans in Asia, Europe and North Africa", said spokesperson Nare Mabuela.

"Surveillance procedures were carried out within a twenty kilometre radius around infected properties and laboratory tests have revealed that the outbreak has remained limited to a couple of adjacent properties", Nare said.

The EU informed South Africa's national department of agriculture on Wednesday that importing ostrich meat was banned after an outbreak of avian influenza in the Western Cape districts of Mossel Bay and Riversdale.

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The department said on Monday an ostrich farm near Mossel Bay was placed under quarantine after the precautionary culling of 60 ostriches suspected of having avian influenza.

The temporary ban on moving ostriches and all types of poultry through, within, into and out of the affected area remains in force.

The EU ban did not have a significant impact on the poultry industry as it is low season for ostrich consumption in Europe, said Anton Kruger, chief executive of the SAOBC (SA Ostrich Business Chamber).

The department said tests at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute confirmed the H5N2 strain detected near Mossel Bay was similar to the one that South Africa "successfully" eradicated in May 2004.

"It must be emphasised that the virus does not affect humans in any way and that all commercially available South African ostrich and poultry products are safe for human consumption", the department said.

In 2004 the EU imposed a nation-wide ban on the country after a similar outbreak was detected in the Eastern Cape, leading to a large scale ostrich cull.

"In 2004 we lost R700-million and 4000 jobs. The ban was for 15 months, from August 2004 to October 2005," said Kruger.

The total export value of the industry was about R1,2-billion, with meat accounting for some R500-million. The bulk of the money came from leather and feather exports, not affected by the EU ban.

Kruger said since 2004 the industry took steps to "tighten up" such areas as bio-security.

The current EU ban would stay until the end of October and applies to live ostriches, their eggs, meat and meat products. The ban also extended to emus, another flightless bird commonly found in Australia, but also farmed in limited numbers in South Africa. - Sapa

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