Swift terns infected with avian influenza

by CapeNature

A number of swift terns in the Western Cape have tested positive for the H5N8 strain of avian influenza. Please be on the lookout for sick or dead terns and contact the state vet in the area.

In addition, the following vets are aware of the situation and are willing to assist with euthanasia:

Dr Omar Mehtar at Somerset West Tygerberg Hospital: 021 851 5739
Dr Marc Walton – Hermanus Animal Clinic:
Dr Marten van Dalsen – Bergview Veterinary Clinic Hermanus: 028 312 1390
Dr Dave Longland – Langebaan: 083 630 9614

The Western Province Government released the following press statement on the 9th January 2018:

Swift terns found to be infected with avian influenza

Swift terns found in Durbanville, Seapoint, between Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand, Kenilworth, and Stony Point, in the Western Cape have tested positive for H5N8 avian influenza, the same strain that has caused deaths in commercial chickens and other poultry in South Africa, since June 2017. Other wild birds found to be infected in 2017 included guinea fowl, laughing doves, rock pigeon, pied crows, sacred ibis, blue crane, Egyptian goose, spotted eagle owl, peregrine falcons and a house sparrow.

The sick terns show signs of weakness and cloudy eyes and later develop head tremors, lack of balance, walking in circles, seizures and death. The public is urged to inform your local state vet office (see map at http://www.elsenburg.com) or a CapeNature office if you discover groups of dead or sick birds, but avoid handling them, especially if you will be coming into contact with other birds or bird owners. Sea-bird rehabilitation centres such as SANCCOB (021 557 6155) or APSS (082 907 5607) can also be contacted for advice.

Poultry farmers are encouraged to remain vigilant for abnormal deaths in their birds and to maintain their biosecurity at the highest possible level. The latest case of avian influenza in commercial chickens occurred in December when a previously-infected farm, still under quarantine, west of Wellington had a recurrence of the disease. Culling of the newly-infected sites started on 22 December. This was the first detection of the virus in a species other than ostriches, in the Western Cape, since 31 October. The virus was detected in ostriches as late as mid-November, but they remain clinically healthy. There have been no cases reported in other provinces of South Africa, since a case in Gauteng in early October. The total number of cases for the country is 107 cases, 75 in the Western Cape.

Avian influenza is a viral respiratory disease of birds that 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 through faecal contamination from wild birds.

There is currently no preventive vaccine or treatment for HPAI H5N8. There is also no benefit to be gained in attempting to control the virus in wild birds through culling or habitat destruction.

The H5N8 strain of the virus has so far shown no sign of being infectious to people. Constant monitoring of exposed people in South Africa has supported this. However, people can spread the disease via their hands, clothes and vehicles.

Ostrich and chicken meat on sale in retail outlets is safe for human consumption.

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