Five out of five penguins from Boulder’s Beach penguin colony have tested positive for avian flu. An update received from state veterinarian and epidemiologist, Dr Laura Roberts, confirmed that five penguins tested from the colony, tested positive for the virus.
A total of 19 penguins have died since the avian influenza outbreak became known to the public in February this year.
“All possible precautions are being taken to limit the spread of the virus by people and their activities,” Roberts said. “As these are wild birds, containing the natural spread of the virus is not possible.”
Roberts added that a swift tern from Simon’s Town also tested positive for avian influenza.
The strain of avian influenza active at Boulder’s Beach is the H5N8 strain, which is also the strain of avian flu which can affect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that although human infection of the H5N8 strain cannot be excluded, the likelihood of this occurring is low.
Merle Collins, regional communications manager of SANParks, has said that it should be reiterated although this virus is a very low risk to humans, it is a real threat to domestic poultry.
“This strain of avian influenza virus has been detected in a range of wild seabirds, such as swift, sandwich and common terns, African penguins and gannets.”
Roberts added that there is no treatment for avian influenza, for birds. The testing of ill birds is conducted at regular intervals to monitor the presence of the virus.
Birds with the following symptoms should be taken to a vet immediately:
– Sudden death without any signs
– Lack of coordination
– Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
– Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
– Lack of energy and appetite
– Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks
– Nasal discharge
– Decreased egg production
– Coughing, sneezing
The H5N8 strain has been detected in several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia over the past two years, with its spread aided by wild bird migrations. It is also highly pathogenic among fowl.