Agriculture Dept urges caution on vaccination against avian flu

As farmers grapple with the highly pathogenic outbreak of the H5N8 strain, the sector wants government’s approval to vaccinate.

FILE: Ostriches and other birds have been affected by the latest outbreak of Avian Flu. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The Agriculture Department says farmers have to be cautious about vaccinating against avian flu because past experience has shown there are repercussions for the poultry industry.

As farmers grapple with the highly pathogenic outbreak of the H5N8 strain, the sector wants government’s approval to vaccinate.

Thousands of chickens have been culled and eggs have been destroyed to stem the spread of the disease, which was first detected in Mpumalanga in June before it was confirmed in other provinces.

H5N8 is not harmful to humans, but it is deadly for poultry.

The department’s Doctor Mpho Maja says government approved the roll out of vaccinations when a different strain broke out years ago.

“We managed to propagate the virus without noticing that it had spread and we’d created an endemic situation. An endemic situation basically means we now live with the disease… we can’t get rid of it.”

Maja says this time around, they need to be careful about rushing to vaccinate.

“There are certain vaccines available, globally, but none registered for use in the country.”

The poultry industry also wants to import fertile eggs from South Africa’s trading partners to close the supply gap.

Ostriches and other birds have also been affected by the latest outbreak.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)