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S. Africa bans live chicken sale amid bird flu outbreak

SOUTH AFRICA-PRETORIA-BIRD FLU-BRIEFING

South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana addresses a briefing in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 29, 2017. South Africa has banned the sale of live chickens due to an outbreak of bird flu, authorities said on Thursday. (Xinhua/GCIS/Siya Duda)

CAPE TOWN, June 29 (Xinhua) -- South Africa has banned the sale of live chickens due to an outbreak of bird flu, authorities said on Thursday.

The measure is imposed to contain the further spread of the pandemic and is in the interest of the country and the poultry producers at large, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said.

The ban will be in place for as long as it takes to declare the country free from the disease, the minister said.

The outbreak has triggered a nationwide concern after a number of livelihoods had been affected. South Africa had never reported an outbreak of bird flu before.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 was first reported on a farm in Mpumalanga Province in northern South Africa last week.

So far two farms, both in Mpumalanga, have been affected.

The affected farms have been placed under quarantine and approximately 260,000 birds were culled, according to the minister.

There have been several calls to permit vaccination against the disease.

But Zokwana said he has been advised by his team of experts that this will not be in the best interest of both the country and the producers.

"Vaccination of birds will create an endemic situation, affect surveillance efforts and affect our export certification because all our trade partners only want products from a country that is free of avian influenza where vaccination is not practised," he explained.

The minister reaffirmed that the type of virus does not affect people, as has been confirmed by the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.

"The meat that is on the shelves is safe to eat as it has gone through a process of meat inspection and certified fit for human consumption," he assured.

To date, no human cases of infection with avian influenza H5N8 have been reported, however people handling wild birds, sick or dying poultry have been advised to wear protective clothing and wash their hands with disinfectants.

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