PRETORIA, June 29 (Xinhua) -- South Africa has decided to put on hold sales of live chickens after the outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza on two farms in the country, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said Thursday.
While confirming that the H5N8-strain of bird flu has hit two farms in the northern Mpumalanga province, the minister said that the mandatory halt in selling live chickens will be in place until the country no longer faces a threat from the disease.
"This measure (to ban the sale of live chickens) triggered a nationwide concern since a number of livelihoods had been affected, but this measure was imposed in the interest of the country and the poultry producers at large. I can assure you that it was not taken lightly," said the minister.
South Africa reported the second case of avian flu in Standerton in Mpumalanga on Monday, after the first outbreak near Villiers last Thursday in the same area.
The minister has dismissed calls for vaccination against the bird flu strain, saying it would not be in the best interests of South Africa and poultry producers, "as vaccination will affect surveillance efforts and the country's export certification."
Zokwana said his ministry has put in place a number of measures to prevent the spread of the diseases and among them the killing of chickens affected by bird flu.
"We have placed the affected farms under quarantine and the affected birds have been euthanized and the eggs destroyed. Approximately 260,000 birds have been culled," he said.
The minister assured the public that the current strain was not a threat to people and all poultry meat currently on sale was safe for human consumption.
Despite all measures taken to curb the spread of bird flu, the minister urged South African chicken owners, farmers and the public to remain vigilant and report all cases of high mortalities in chickens and other birds to the nearest state veterinarian.
Sellers of live chickens, including commercial farmers, as well as traders who buy and resell these chickens need to register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency, said Zokwana.