Bird flu alarm bells

Fears are rife that if an outbreak of bird flu on Halifax Island reaches poultry farms inland, it will totally destroy the poultry industry.

25 February 2019 | Agriculture

Poultry producers say if the outbreak of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, among Halifax Island penguins' spreads inland, it will be disastrous for the sector.

The H5N8 outbreak was discussed at a recent management meeting of the Poultry Producers Association (PPA).

According to the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU), the PPA management emphasised that it is of utmost importance that the Directorate of Veterinary Services implement all possible actions to prevent the disease from spreading from the island near Lüderitz. “If the disease reaches poultry farms inland it will totally destroy the poultry industry,” said the NAU.

The disease was detected on 2 February. According to the According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a total of 7 002 penguins are susceptible to the disease and that 225 penguins have already died, while eight birds were killed and disposed of.

Avian influenza is an infectious disease and all birds are thought to be susceptible to it, although some are more resistant to infection.

Highly pathogenic, avian influenza is characterised by its sudden onset, severe illness and rapid death, with a mortality rate that can approach 100%.

Common clinical signs can include swelling and purple discoloration of the head, comb and wattle, swelling and the red discoloration of the feet, internal muscle and organ bleeding, greenish diarrhoea, twisting of the neck, staggering and paralysis of the wings and neck.

The poultry industry also expressed concern over the apparent lack of vaccination programmes for birds by producers. The absence of good communication between producers was also discussed. A need was identified for the Directorate of Veterinary Services to monitor that poultry producers implement vaccination programmes.

ELLANIE SMIT

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