Cormorants are among the victims. File photo: Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
Cormorants are among the victims. File photo: Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

Western Cape responds to suspected avian flu outbreak among seabirds in province

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape government says it is responding to a suspected outbreak of avian influenza among wild seabirds in the Bergrivier Municipality on the West Coast as well as the Walker Bay area in the Overberg.

The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre is currently doing an assessment to determine if the outbreak constitutes a disaster or not.

Provincial Department of Local Government and Environmental Affairs spokesperson James-Brent Styan said that all disaster nodes had been alerted.

“Bergrivier Municipality, both the Overberg and West Coast District Municipalities as well as CapeNature have already deployed teams of officials to collect the dead and sick birds.

“Veterinarians are on scene assisting and officials are following advice provided by Veterinary Services in terms of how to manage the sick birds.”

Local Government and Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell urged the public to avoid the area and in particular not to collect or touch sick or dead birds.

“It is critical to prevent the spread of the disease. This means people must not attempt to assist or transport any sick birds, even to take them to rehabilitation centres and veterinarians as this could spread the disease. It is critical to keep a controlled environment.

“At the moment, Bergrivier Municipality remains the hot-spot area with reports of dead birds from Velddrif to Arniston. There are additional hot spots on Dyer Island and Robben Island, which are receiving attention,” said Bredell.

He said neighbouring municipalities had been alerted and were urged to be cautious and to keep an eye out for the potential spreading of the disease.

He said it was a serious situation and that deaths were occurring among endangered wild birds, including cormorants. An estimated 1 500 dead cormorants were collected in the region on Wednesday alone.

The current virus strain was detected in wild birds in May, mainly affecting gulls. The first cormorants were only diagnosed with the disease in mid-September and cases had increased rapidly over the past week.

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