The South African government has issued a ban on importation of poultry products from its neighbouring country, Zimbabwe.
The ban on Zim’s Poultry importation was issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Veterinary Services.
The ban follows a recent report by Zimbabwean authorities over the weekend that they had placed a privately owned farm under quarantine after the outbreak killed 7,000 birds.
Another 140,000 birds were culled to prevent the spread from the farm situated on the outskirts of Harare.
Zimbabwe identified the strain as H5N8, a highly pathogenic and lethal virus to poultry which has been identified in various countries in recent years.
Though the country imports little Zim’s poultry products, the agricultural department said it had “suspended all trade in live poultry, meat and table eggs” from its northern neighbour and has stepped up surveillance.
Giving reasons for its decisions the department said that it was on high alert and had “heightened inspections of all consignments, including all private and public vehicles at all our ports of entry, especially in and out of Zimbabwe”
Poultry producers fear that more than 140 million chickens would be at risk if the virus spreads across the border.
The ministry urged farmers near the Zimbabwean border in Limpopo to remain vigilant and report any “unusual mortality of chickens or other birds to the state veterinary services immediately for samples to be collected”.
Meanwhile two other countries -Mozambique and Botswana – had imposed poultry import bans early this week.
Mozambique announced the ban on Monday and on the following day, the Botswana government said that the importation of “domesticated and wild birds, their products (meat, feathers etc) and poultry feed from Zimbabwe is banned with immediate effect”.
The affected poultry farm was identified as belonging to Irvine’s, a leading poultry and egg producer in Zimbabwe.
This is not the first time Zim’s poultry product importation were banned in South Africa. The South African Poultry Association is, however, concerned that its the first time had a highly pathogenic avian influenza in its chickens.
“This is a serious matter which should not be taken lightly. Systems are in place to stop any possible danger.”
“This is the first time that Zimbabwe has had a highly pathogenic avian influenza in its chickens. It had in ostriches once before as has South Africa. But we’ve never had it in South Africa in chicken either and that means we are still at risk.”
Lovell also said they are working with government as well, adding that government has had a contingency plan in the event of an avian influenza outbreak since the mid-2000s.”
He says that research is currently being conducted to determine whether the virus is being spread by wild birds moving over borders or by human activity.