JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe’s avian flu outbreak among ostriches is the H5N2 strain which is not dangerous to humans, a veterinary official said on Monday.
The H5N2 strain can be lethal to birds but unlike the H5N1 version that has killed 70 people in Asia it pose
s little risk to people.
“It is H5N2 according to seriological testing but they have not isolated the virus yet,” said Celia Abolnik, a senior researcher at South Africa’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute.
“We know it is H5N2 but we need to isolate it to see if it is the highly pathogenic form or not,” she told Reuters.
Zimbabwe has sent samples to South Africa for testing.
The outbreak has been detected on two ostrich farms in the country but all have been placed under quarantine, dealing a fresh blow an agriculture sector which has been hard hit by drought and the often chaotic seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
South Africa had an outbreak of H5N2 among ostriches last year. It declared itself bird flu free in September and last month the European Union lifted a ban on the import of South African ostriches and their meat.
The H5N1 strain has not yet been detected in Africa but experts say identifying it will be difficult because of poor surveillance and high mortality rates among backyard chickens. — Reuter