CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa has banned the sale of live hens throughout the country in a bid to control an outbreak of highly contagious H5N8 bird flu, but no humans have been affected, the government said on Monday.
Exports of processed poultry products, live chickens and fresh produce will continue depending on the requirements of importing countries, the department of agriculture said in a statement.
“To date, no human cases of infection with avian influenza H5N8 have been reported. However, people handling wild birds, sick or dying poultry must wear protective clothing and wash their hands with disinfectants,” the department said.
The government said meat from healthy poultry was safe to eat due to strict inspections at abattoirs, though people were urged to avoid eating any birds found dead, dying or sick.
South Africa reported an outbreak this month of H5N8 bird flu on a commercial broiler breeder farm in Mpumalanga province, where about 5,000 birds died and the rest were culled.
The H5N8 strain has been detected in several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia over the past two years, its spread aided by wild bird migrations. Highly pathogenic among fowl, the risk of human infection is low.
South Africa suspended all trade in birds and chicken products from neighboring Zimbabwe earlier this month after it reported an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu at a poultry farm.
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by Louise Heavens and David Clarke