Authorities probe Cape’s avian flu outbreak, more than 1000 birds killed

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Oct 14, 2021

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Authorities in the Western Cape are investigating reports of avian flu outbreak among wild sea birds in the West Coast and Overberg regions.

The Department of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said in a statement that authorities were responding to reports in the Bergrivier Municipality as well as the Walter Bay area where disaster nodes have been alerted.

According to the department both the Overberg and West Coast District Municipalities as well as CapeNature have deployed teams of officials to collect dead and sick birds. Veterinarians are on the scene assisting and officials are following advice provided by veterinary services to manage the sick birds.

MEC Anton Bredell said urged people 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,” he said.

At the moment Bergrivier Municipality remained a hotspot with reports of dead birds from Velddrif to Arniston, some 350 kilometres apart.

The department said neighbouring municipalities have been alerted and urged to be cautious and to keep an eye out for potential spreading of the disease. There are also reports of hotspots on Dyer island and Robben Island which are receiving attention. “This is a serious situation. We note that the deaths are occurring currently amongst endangered wild birds including cormorants. Yesterday alone an estimated 1500 dead cormorants were collected in the region,” added Bredell.

“This is an incurable disease affecting birds, that is not preventative, cannot be treated and is highly contagious to birds

While authorities say there is no evidence that the virus poses risks to humans, transmission through clothing or contaminated hands can be transferred from having come into contact with sick birds to other birds.

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