Bird flu: farms quarantined

“We have sent samples from the illegally imported birds away for testing. Until we get the results, it would be premature to say we have bird flu,” Steve Galane, a spokesman for South Africa’s agriculture ministry said.

Galane said one of the quarantined farms was in Rustenburg in the central North West province and another in Bon Accord in neighbouring Gauteng, where Johannesburg is located.

The Rustenburg farmer is alleged to have brought nearly 600 eggs into the country illegally from the Netherlands in hand luggage, Galane told AFP.

Once the eggs hatched, the farmer supposedly sold some of the birds to the owner of the other farm in Gauteng province.

Health officials culled 573 birds in the Rustenburg farm last Saturday and samples were taken for tests.

On August 1, the Dutch agriculture ministry said traces of the H7N7 strain of bird flu had been discovered during routine testing at a poultry farm in Voorthuizen but that no animals had fallen sick.

H7N7-infection in humans is rare, but could occur among people who have direct contact with infected birds.

“South Africa is determined to maintain its avian influenza-free status and does not allow the importation of any live birds, poultry or poultry products from any country that has not been free for at least the past three months,” Galane said.

The agriculture ministry meanwhile said in a statement that there was “no outbreak of the deadly avian influenza (H5N1) in the country”.

H5N1 is a strain of bird flu that can be transmitted to humans with potentially fatal consequences.

The World Health Organisation says 239 people have been infected with the virulent H5N1 strain of the virus, mostly in Asia, and 140 have died. ‘ AFP

August 2006
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