JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe has imposed a quarantine on ostrich farms after detecting an outbreak of the H5N2 strain of avian flu, which can be lethal to birds but poses little risk to humans, a state newspaper reported on Thursday.
“Until the full extent of the disease can be esta
blished by completion of a national survey, all ostrich farms in the country have been placed under quarantine,” the state-run Herald newspaper quoted Dr Stuart Hargreaves, the principal director for Veterinary Services, as saying.
The Herald said the virus had been detected on two ostrich farms in Matabeleland North in the country’s west from samples that had been sent to South Africa.
Hargreaves’ secretary confirmed the Herald story and said he was in South Africa awaiting more test results.
A source at South Africa’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, where most testing of this nature is done in the country, could not confirm that it had received samples from Zimbabwe.
South Africa last year had an outbreak of H5N2 among ostriches that led to around 26,000 of the birds being culled.
It declared itself bird flu free in September and the European Union last month lifted a ban on the import of South African ostriches and their meat. H5N2 is not as virulent as the H5N1 strain that has killed nearly 70 people in Asia since 2003.
The H5N1 strain has not yet been detected in Africa but experts say uncovering it in the region’s rural areas will be difficult because of poor surveillance and already high mortality rates among the continent’s backyard chickens. — Reuter