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Agriculture dept surveilling farms across SA to curb bird flu

City officials say most bird carcasses found have tested positive for the H5N8 strain of the virus.

FILE: Cases of bird flu have been confirmed in the Western Cape. Picture: www.elsenburg.com.

JOHANNESBURG – The Agriculture Department says it’s currently doing surveillance on farms across the country in efforts to prevent the wild spread of bird flu.

The virus hit Johannesburg last month with 581 birds culled across the city since.

City officials say most bird carcasses found have tested positive for the H5N8 strain of the virus.

The department’s Dr Peter Geertsma says: “At this stage, we’re doing what we call stamping out where there’s an outbreak in a poultry farm, we try and eliminate the source of infection as quickly as possible.

“We’re busy also looking at the farms at the moment, doing surveillance on them to see if they increase mortality and so on.”

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Zoo has also been affected.

Residents who own birds have been urged to monitor them, especially if they live close to the zoo.

Joburg City Parks and Zoo’s Jenny Moodley said, “The seasonal migration of free-roaming birds has aided the spread unfortunately and this has affected the City of Joburg, including the Joburg Zoo and three other sites which include the Westdene Dam, Emmarentia Dam and Zoo Lake.”

Avian veterinarians say humans can’t contract the new strain of avian influenza which has been detected in birds in South Africa.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)