UP researchers weigh in on bird flu outbreak

Posted on July 19, 2017


University of Pretoria researchers are working with the poultry industry and the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to contain the current bird flu outbreak in South Africa.

The H5N8 variant of bird flu, more accurately referred to as highly pathogenic avian influenza, has been reported around the world. So far, four farms in South Africa have been affected by H5N8. The disease is spread by wild bird populations, and the movement of infected poultry and contaminated clothing, shoes, equipment and vehicles. Current control measures include quarantines, movement controls, increased biosecurity and increased surveillance.

'It is important for everyone involved, including consumers, to be informed about the available options and the measures in place to curb the spread,' said Professor Celia Abolnik, Research Chair: Poultry Health and Production in the Department of Production Animal Studies at UP.

Abolnik is recognised internationally as the sub-regional expert in bird flu, and has been intimately involved in diagnosis and research for this disease. She is an expert in advanced genetic characterisation of influenza virus strains.

Members of the South African Veterinary Poultry group, a network of poultry specialists, have been meeting regularly with DAFF, the South African Poultry Association and other stakeholders to assist in containing the virus and discuss how to avoid future outbreaks.

'Poultry meat and eggs available commercially in supermarkets are completely safe and have not come from any H5N8-infected flock. The public is urged to remain vigilant and report sick or dead birds, including poultry and wild birds, to their local state veterinarian,' said Professor Abolnik.

About the Research Chair in Poultry Health and Production

The Research Chair in Poultry Health and Production was jointly established by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) and the University of Pretoria in August 2012.

The purpose of the Chair is to conduct applied research into production-related issues, specifically diseases that affect South Africa's poultry industry. The Research Chair works closely with the Poultry Disease Management Agency, poultry specialists within the Department of Production Animal Studies, diagnosticians within the Faculty of Veterinary Science, collaborators across the country and world experts in specific diseases. Focus areas, guided by the needs of the industry, are taken up by postgraduate students as projects towards their master's and PhD degrees.



- Author Department of University Relations

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