Thousands of ostriches culled in avian flu outbreak

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pretoria - About 10 000 ostriches have been culled since the outbreak of avian influenza in April, says the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Exports of ostrich meat to the European Union (EU) were suspended immediately as a result of this incursion. With fears mounting on what many speculate will be a harsh fallout for the economy of the Klein Karoo - the hub of ostrich production - the department is setting in motion plans to ease the blow of the outbreak on the communities.

Department spokesperson Steve Galane said the impact on the Klein Karoo valley, which presents about 70 percent of the ostrich industry, is "quite serious", as the economy of the area is based on ostrich products.

Currently, the entire Klein Karoo valley is affected and no movement of ostriches is allowed except to the abattoir for controlled slaughter. This measure is aimed at containing the outbreak and preventing the spread of the infection to areas outside of the valley.

The rest of the country can, however, move birds for slaughter for the local market if the farm of origin has tested negative within 28 days of slaughter.

Last week, the department, together with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the industry, hosted a team of experts from the EU, whose mission was to assist with the avian flu control measures put in place.

A report following this visit is still pending.

At this stage, the department cannot estimate the total number of ostriches that will be culled as the outbreak is ongoing.

DAFF has managed to isolate a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strain in the Klein Karoo. Since then, the Western Cape has conducted a massive surveillance campaign.

"Initially, we had one farm and thus far an additional seven other farms (also in the Klein Karoo valley) and in close proximity to the original infected farm, also tested PCR positive for the same virus.

"The ostriches on those farms are also going to be culled by way of controlled slaughter in the abattoir, where the skin and feathers are going to be harvested and processed and the meat will be processed into carcass meal for use in pet food," said Department of Agriculture spokesperson Steve Galane.

The department thanked the Western Cape Veterinary Authorities and the industry for their support to eradicate avian influenza.

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