August 8, 2004

Bird Flu hits the country

After several ostriches in the Eastern Cape have died of bird flu, also known as the Avian Influenza Virus, fears that it was now spreading in other parts of South Africa have been growing. Stringent measures have hence since been put into place to prevent the virus spreading from the Eastern Cape to other parts of the country. South Africa's government has begun the slaughter of 6.000 ostriches in an effort to contain an outbreak. The Agriculture Ministry said that tests would determine whether another 24.000 birds had to be destroyed as well. Scientists say the ostriches were infected with a strain of the disease related to the epidemic that hit East Asia earlier this year. Some 2.000 birds have already died in Eastern Cape Province. Exports of ostrich meat and other poultry have been suspended. It is thought the slaughter will cost farmers around US$ 17m in lost income.
About 25% of South Africa's ostrich production takes place in the Eastern Cape and 75% in the Western Cape. The South African Ostrich Chamber of Business said that South Africa was a world leader in the ostrich industry and the local industry contributes about R1.2bn to the country's export earnings every year.

Besides the European Union, also Mocambique has already imposed a ban on imports of poultry products from South Africa. The chief of the animal health department at the national livestock directorate, Adolfo Mavale, explained that "at the moment we must take prevention measures, because this disease is highly contagious and, if it gets into our country it may cause enormous damage. We understand that the ban will affect national production, because almost all products are imported from South Africa, but this is the only measure we can take to prevent something much worse, since this disease is known to kill about 90 per cent of the infected animals", said Mavale. The Mozambican authorities' decision bans all imports of domestic and wild live birds, fresh poultry meat and all related products, including poultry feed, eggs for reproduction, and one-day chicks. (News 24.com / Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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