Cape Town – Four new cases of high pathogenicity avian influenza (Bird Flu) have been detected in the Boulders Penguin Colony, confirmed Table Mountain National Park in a statement on Friday.
“Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) management would like to alert the public that the Western Cape Veterinary Services and SANCCOB saves seabirds, have confirmed that four new bird flu cases have been detected in the Boulders Penguin Colony, and suspect another seven cases.”
According to TMNP, the strain of avian influenza virus has been detected in a range of wild seabirds since May 2021. These include: African penguins, Cape Cormorants, Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns, and Cape Gannets.
The virus poses a low risk to humans, but is a threat to domestic poultry.
With an estimated 3 000 penguins in Simon’s Town, the affected numbers are still very low. Precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the virus are however still being taken.
“This includes limiting access to the breeding colony, including researchers, and applying strict disinfection of footwear when staff leave the colony. Dead and sick birds will also be removed and transferred to SANCCOB for assessment and possible testing,” said TMNP.
Affected birds are weak and may look tame, cannot fly, show signs of tremors or twitches and seizures or loss of balance, and one or both eyes may be droopy or cloudy. TMNP has advised visitors to not approach, or touch the birds,
“Please do not approach, touch or handle the birds. Visitors should shower, change and clean their shoes and clothes before visiting other seabird colonies or poultry farms to prevent contamination from one site to another.”
According to TimesLive, Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning Anton Bredell said the situation could pose a risk to the agricultural sector.
“Our disaster management centre has been alerted of these new cases. Avian influenza holds almost no risk to humans, but if transmitted from wild seabirds to poultry flocks, poses a great risk to the agricultural sector,” said Bredell.
Closing the Boulders colony to the public is not justified at this stage, but visitors have been instructed to stay on designated boardwalks. They are also encouraged to look out for any suspected bird flu cases by reporting sick and/or dead birds to TMNP park management on 021 786 2329/ 021 780 9100 or SANCCOB 021 557 6155.
Compiled by Junaid Benjamin