5 000 chickens culled as bird flu hits EC farm

Around 5000 chickens have been culled in a Uitenhage farm as bird flu hit the province this week.

Sovereign Foods, which sources chickens from the affected farm in Uitenhage, has confirmed through a PR company that they have detected avian influenza (AI).

The Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform also confirmed the outbreak last night.

In a press statement yesterday, Sovereign Foods said: “Approximately 5000 birds have been culled, which represents approximately 1% of Uitenhage’s production pipeline.

“Sovereign Foods’ management is currently taking the appropriate steps and following the prescribed protocols to prevent AI from spreading to other farms.”

Sovereign Foods has been farming chickens in the Eastern Cape since 1948. They are the fourth largest producer in South Africa, and the home of Country Range chicken.

Provincial rural development and agrarian reform spokesman Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said his department had been informed of the outbreak.

The department’s provincial veterinary services chief director, Dr Lubabalo Mrwebi, said: “The affected establishment is under strict quarantine.

“There is also a 30km radius that will apply where birds within that radius will be under surveillance.”

In June, the country learnt of the banning of the sale of live chickens after outbreaks at two farms in Mpumalanga.

Dr Karin Blignaut, a consultant in the food industry, urged members of the public to keep away from buying live birds, and she emphasised that it was not only chickens that were affected, but all birds.

“The strain that is currently in the country is only affecting live birds, and this means that chickens that are already in stores are fine.

“Birds that seem disorientated or dead birds are a definite no-go,” she said.

Blignaut said the influenza was spread through migrating birds.

“If people find any kind of dead bird they should contact the department of agriculture,” Blignaut concluded. — siyat@dispatch.co.za

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