Western Cape authorities are responding to a suspected outbreak of avian influenza among wild seabirds.
Western Cape authorities are responding to a suspected outbreak of avian influenza among wild seabirds.

Suspected avian flu outbreak kills hundreds of birds

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 14, 2021

Share this article:

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape authorities are responding to a suspected outbreak of avian influenza among wild seabirds in the Bergrivier Municipality on the West Coast and Walker Bay in Overberg.

All disaster nodes have been alerted and both municipalities and CapeNature have already deployed teams of officials to collect the dead and sick birds.

Veterinarians are also at the scene.

Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell urged the public to avoid the area and 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.

“This is a serious situation. We note that the deaths are occurring currently among endangered wild birds including cormorants. Yesterday alone an estimated 1 500 dead cormorants were collected in the region,” he said.

Bergrivier Municipality remains the hotspot, with reports of dead birds from Velddrif to Arniston.

There are additional hotspots on Dyer island and Robben Island which are receiving attention.

Neighbouring municipalities have been alerted and urged to be cautious and to keep an eye out for potential spreading of the disease.

The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre is doing an assessment to determine if the outbreak constitutes a disaster.

“This is an incurable disease affecting birds that is not preventable, cannot be treated and is highly contagious to birds,” said Bredell.

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 have increased rapidly in the past week.

There is no evidence that this virus poses a threat to humans. However, humans can transmit the virus from sick birds to other birds if their clothes or hands get contaminated.

“People are advised not to handle the birds at all unless it is absolutely unavoidable and in that instance to please use gloves and face masks,” he said.

The Disaster Management Centre urges the public to be vigilant and report unusual deaths in any birds to their local municipality, conservation authority or state veterinarian.

Contact details for state veterinarians are available at: https://www.elsenburg.com/services-and-programmes/veterinary-services-0#s=Animal-Health-and-Disease-Control.

Cape Times

Share this article: