'Bird flu vaccine would have to be based on sound scientific research'

Thousands of chickens have been culled and their eggs destroyed. Ostriches and other birds are also affected.

Picture: freeimages.com.

CAPE TOWN - Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana says 24 outbreaks of Avian Flu have been detected since a recent outbreak of the disease in June.

The H5 N8 strain of the virus is not harmful to humans, but it is highly pathogenic for poultry and is costing the local industry millions of rand.

Thousands of chickens have been culled and their eggs destroyed. Ostriches and other birds are also affected.

Desperate for a solution, the poultry industry wants government to roll out a vaccine for the highly pathogenic H5 N8 strain.

But Minister Zokwana says such a decision would have to be based on sound scientific research.

“It is the decision that is to be based on scientific research for the long-term benefit of the sector and the country.”

The Agriculture Department's Doctor Mpho Maja says there are serious risks associated with vaccines.

“There are too many repercussions to vaccines that we would not take the decision lightly.”

The poultry industry also wants to import fertile eggs from some of South Africa's trading partners such as Brazil.

Industry players are reluctant to put a figure to the economic impact of the outbreak, but JSE-listed firm - Astral Foods - recently announced the outbreak is costing the company R50 million.