Smallholders in Ekurhuleni are warned to be on the lookout for symptoms of avian influenza in their poultry. This comes after the Department of Agriculture, Land reform and Rural Development reported the death of about 300 birds on a commercial laying farm in the area.

The samples sent from the farm tested positive for the H5 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu. The Gauteng Veterinary Authorities have placed the farm under quarantine and are investigating the outbreak.

Poultry owners and farmers must be on the lookout for signs of the disease and must report any suspicion to your nearest State Vet immediately. The following are common symptoms:

  • Quietness and extreme depression;
  • Sudden drop in egg production, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less;
  • Wattle and combs becoming red and swollen;
  • Swelling of the skin under the eyes;
  • Coughing, sneezing and restlessness;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Black spots on the hock caused by hemorrhages;
  • A few deaths may occur over several days, followed by rapid spread of disease and deaths within 48 hours.

Poultry owners – commercial or hobby – must implement the following safety measures:

  • Keep wild birds away from your flock;
  • Control access of people and equipment into your chicken houses/coops;
  • Do not provide food that may attract wild birds. Rather, feed your free range chickens in a confined structure;
  • Maintain cleanliness of your coops and chicken houses;
  • Implement procedures for the safe disposal of manure and dead birds.

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