Govt bans sale of live hens after H5N8 bird flu outbreak

Officials have emphasised that no humans have been affected.

FILE: Chickens in cages waiting to be sold in Alexandra township. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Government has placed a general ban on the sale of live hens throughout the country in a bid to control an outbreak of highly contagious H5N8 bird flu.

Officials have emphasised that no humans have been affected.

The Agriculture Department says that exports of processed poultry products, live chickens and fresh produce will continue, depending on the requirements of importing countries.

Last week, South Africa reported an outbreak of a highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu at a farm in the Free State province, an agricultural industry body group, AgriSA, said.

The SA Poultry Association's Kevin Lovell says: “Now there’s a greater understanding of the path of this disease, this disease was probably brought to South Africa by wild birds that have left already so that means that there’s a greater possibility that there could be a further outbreak and that the most prudent way is a temporary shutdown.”

Earlier this month, all trade was suspended in birds and chicken products from neighbouring Zimbabwe after it reported an outbreak of H5N8 at a commercial poultry farm.

On Thursday, the World Organisation for Animal Health reported an outbreak on a commercial broiler breeder farm in Mpumalanga province, citing a report from the South African farm ministry.

Some 5,000 birds died of the highly contagious disease and the remainder at the 24,000-birds farm was in the process of being culled, the ministry said.

At the same time, Zimbabwe has imposed a ban on all South African poultry products after the outbreak in Mpumalanga last week.

Zimbabwe’s outbreak of the H5N8 strain of bird flu appears to have been contained and it is now taking no chances.

The state ZBC is reporting that Zimbabwe has banned all trade in birds and chicken products from South Africa.
That’s in response to last week’s outbreak of bird flu at farms in Mpumalanga, and in the Free State.

After Zimbabwe’s outbreak at a poultry farm near Harare in early June, more than 140,000 chickens had to be culled.

The ZBC says these restrictions on SA poultry products are to prevent a repeat of that.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)