In June 2017, the Department of Agriculture in South Africa announced the suspension of all trade in poultry meat and eggs from Zimbabwe after news of a bird flu outbreak in the east of Harare.
Many other Southern African countries followed suit and have also implemented bans on poultry imports from Zimbabwe.
Shortly after an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu was reported on farms in South Africa, with the worst affected area being the Western Cape. Around 2 million birds have already been culled in the Western Cape alone.
Bird flu, otherwise known as Avian influenza (AI) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild birds. AI virus strains are usually classified into two categories according to the severity of the disease in poultry: low pathogenic (LPAI) strains, which cause few or no clinical signs in poultry, and highly pathogenic (HPAI) strains, which can cause severe clinical signs and potentially high mortality rates among poultry.
The overall economic impact is massive in such outbreaks, as many farms lose income for prolonged periods due to quarantine restrictions and the time it takes to return to full production. Many poultry producers have lost millions in revenue already, with some saying it may take them years to recover.
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