Two variants of bird flu plague South Africa's poultry: worst ever

The South African poultry sector has been affected by two variants of bird flu for several weeks. The sector warns of possible shortages of chickens and eggs and calls it the worst outbreak of bird flu to ever hit the country. 

Producer Quantum Foods reported damage of almost two million chickens on Friday, worth more than 5.3 million dollars. Food producer Astral says the contamination is already leading to a shortage of table eggs. It is expected that the supply of poultry meat could be negatively affected in the coming months. The outbreak has already caused Astral millions of dollars in damage.

South Africa is one of the largest poultry producers in Africa. The country is battling two different strains of the virus, the infamous H5N1 and a new strain identified as H7N6. The latter is spreading “at an alarming speed”, especially in the most populous province that includes Pretoria and the economic capital Johannesburg, Astral said.

Around the world, bird flu is infecting more and more mammals ranging from foxes to sea lions, raising fears that the virus may adapt to more easily infect humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Infection is generally seasonal, but in recent years cases have occurred year-round, with experts now considering the outbreak to be the largest on record.