Director of Animal Health: Store chickens safe to eat, despite bird flu outbreak

The South African Poultry Association says it will discuss with government how to strike the balance between disease management and financial risk impact of a bird flu outbreak.

Two individual cases of bird flu have been reported in Mpumalanga and the Free State.

An outbreak of a highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu at a farm in the Free State province was confirmed by the agricultural industry body group, AgriSA, on Friday.

READ: Reports of H5N8 bird flu in South Africa

Government has introduced a ban on the sale of live poultry to minimise the risk of the disease spreading.

The poultry association's Kevin Lovell says the outbreak has not reached a crisis point and that the affected farms make up a small percentage of South Africa's supply.

What government is saying is how do we stop this disease spreading? Banning the sale of live birds is one such way. Today in our meeting we will look at what is the fair balance between business continuity and disease spread risk. No right answer. It is a discussion.

Kevin Lovell, CEO of the South African Poultry Association

One is a commercial egg laying farm, 1% of South Africa's egg supply is affected. It sounds like a lot of chickens but it is not a lot of eggs. It is not a crisis yet. The first farm was a boiler breeder farm, also a small percentage of South Africa's supply.

Kevin Lovell, CEO of the South African Poultry Association

It is not a crisis yet. If it spreads it could become a crisis and fortunately for us, this particular strain does not affect people. It just affects farmers.

Kevin Lovell, CEO of the South African Poultry Association

Click on the link below to listen to the full audio...

Meanwhile the National Director of Animal Health, Dr Mpho Maja says consumers have nothing to worry about and that the meat in store is safe to eat.

She explains why government has banned the sale of live chickens.

It takes about 4 to 7 days before a disease is manifested if a bird is infected, so in that 4 to 7 days we would not know that those birds are affected. If the culls are infected and incubating the disease, they re going to further spread it.

Dr Mpho Maja, Management Team Director of Animal Health

It is not for consumer protection, it is basically to prevent the spread of the disease. The WHO as well as the World Organisation for Animal Health have confirmed that the H5N8 does not affect people.

Dr Mpho Maja, Management Team Director of Animal Health

Click on the audio below to listen to the full audio...

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