The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a commercial layer poultry farm in the province.

On Tuesday (22 August 2017), the Department’s Veterinary Services programme confirmed the disease had spread to a farm in the Paardeberg region. The cause is most likely through contact with wild birds. Since then, meetings with poultry veterinarians and stakeholders such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases have taken place.

Over 10 000 chickens have already died and culling of the rest of the farm and composting of mortalities has already been started.

The farm has been placed under quarantine.

The virus has not yet been confirmed as H5N8, which is the strain in outbreaks in other parts of the country. However, the H5 typing, and the nature of its effect on chickens, is indicative of it being the H5N8 strain.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, was briefed on the outbreak.

Minister Winde said: “The virus presents a challenge to control due to the wild birds, but the vets are working hard to contain the spread. This is a priority for the poultry industry, and the entire agriculture sector. The outbreak and the current drought have made agriculture a tough space to be in. This is a particularly difficult time for those affected farms, which are important employers.  This is why we ask all stakeholders to continue working with us to mitigate the impact of this outbreak on our economy.”

In Heidelberg, three ostrich farms have tested positive. No birds have died on the farms. The affected farms remain under quarantine.

Poultry products available in supermarkets and stores do not pose a risk to human health as a result of this strain of avian influenza.

The following control measures have been implemented:

  • Farms within a 3km zone of an infected farm will be monitored closely and subjected to the control measures as laid out by the National Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry;
  • It is strongly recommended that any movement of pet birds, racing pigeons, breeding birds and show birds be limited as far as possible and covered by a movement permit if coming from within 30km of an infected farm;
  • Sick or dead birds - both wild birds and poultry – must be reported to local state vets. Contact details can be found at
  • Exports of poultry and poultry products have been suspended except from poultry compartments registered with DAFF, or where a country’s import permit contains clauses that are able to be signed by a certifying veterinarian.

Avian influenza is a controlled disease in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 35 of 1984.

It is a viral respiratory disease amongst birds, believed to be transmitted by wild migratory birds. The H5N8 strain of the disease has already wreaked havoc in the poultry industry in Zimbabwe where thousands of commercial birds have died or had to be culled.

Avian influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds, or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials. The virus is present in the faeces of infected birds and in discharges from their noses, mouth and eyes. The virus can spread into domestic flocks kept outdoors through faecal contamination from wild birds, whereas infection among indoor flocks is spread via airborne discharges and faeces.

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Bronwynne Jooste
Spokesperson: Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities
Responsible for Tourism, Economic Development and Agriculture
Western Cape Government
142 Long Street, Cape Town

Tel: 021 483 3550
Cell: 060 970 4301
Twitter: bronwynnejooste