Public warned to refrain from handling dead birds amid avian flu

The Western Cape Local Government and Environmental Affairs Department says its recorded 18 abnormal penguin deaths since late January at Boulders Beach.

Penguins are seen at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town. Picture: Facebook.com.

CAPE TOWN - Officials have warned the public to refrain from handling any species of dead birds in their gardens or on beaches.

The Western Cape Local Government and Environmental Affairs Department says its recorded 18 abnormal penguin deaths since late January at Boulders Beach.

However, only four of these cases have been confirmed as avian influenza through testing.

The department’s Bianca Capazorio says the Boulders population is about 1,700 and the average number of deaths per week remains stable.

“Out of the penguin deaths that we have seen at Boulders since late January, four of those have tested positive for avian influenza. We are asking members of the public that are visiting Boulders to please just stick to the rules that are in place there. Those rules are there to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread any further.”

Capazorio says the department is working closely with partners such as Cape Nature, SANParks and marine bird organisations like SANCCOB to ensure that all the correct protocols remain in place.

She says should members of the public find dead birds they must contact the state vet.

“Human beings have not been shown to be impacted by the virus at all but we can carry it on our clothing and shoes, and so forth, and infect other birds in other areas.”