In 2011, the commercial ostrich production industry of South Africa experienced an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N2. Surveillance using antibody and antigen detection revealed 42 infected farms with a between-farm prevalence in the affected area of 16%. The outbreak was controlled using depopulation of infected farms, resulting in the direct loss of 10% of the country's domestic ostrich population. Various factors in the ostrich production system were observed that could have contributed to the spread of the virus between farms, including the large number of legal movements of ostriches between farms, access of wild birds to ostrich camps and delays in depopulation of infected farms. Negative effects on the ostrich industry and the local economy of the ostrich-producing area were observed as a result of the outbreak and the disease control measures applied. Prevention and control measures applied as a result of avian influenza in South Africa were informed by this large outbreak and the insights into epidemiology of avian influenza in ostriches that it provided, resulting in stricter biosecurity measures required on every registered ostrich farm in the country.
Keywords: Disease control; H5N2; HPAI; Ostrich.
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