By Elita Chikwati
Zimbabwe is now free from the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that hit the country between May and August last year. The disease killed one million chickens in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In a statement yesterday, Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services principal, Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu said the country, however, remains on high alert.
“Effective January 31, 2018, this notice serves as an official declaration of the end of the Avian Influenza that hit our country over the period May to August 2017.
“Operations at Irvine’s Private Limited are now reverting to normal. The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services and all stakeholders remain on high alert as the global status of Avian Influenza or Bird Flu remains unpredictable,” she said.
Dr Ushewokunze-Obatolu said the general surveillance of all key animal disease countrywide continue as usual.
“The public is required to cooperate with veterinary import controls to limit introduction of Avian Influenza from other territories,” she said.
The department said the ban on poultry products from South Africa still stands as the country has not been declared free from avian influenza.
Zimbabwe culled around 215 000 birds. This affected the availability of table eggs and poultry products in the region.
The influenza came at a time when the region was struggling to recover from the El Niño-induced food shortages (2015-2016 season) further worsened by the emergence of other pests such as the fall armyworm, which devastated crops last year.
In Southern Africa, the flu was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In South Africa and Zimbabwe, the disease was identified on large commercial farms, where systems to monitor outbreaks were readily in place compared to smallholder and backyard producers.
The spectre of bird flu outbreaks had been looming across the region since the beginning of 2017 when Uganda reported an outbreak (January 2017) prompting SADC member states to develop the capacity for surveillance, detection, prevention, and a rapid response to HPAI.