Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) has confirmed that Cape Town’s Penguin Colony in Simons Town has been hit with avian flu and for now, only four new bird cases have been confirmed with others on suspicion.
Since May 2021, the pressure of the avian influenza virus has been detected in a range of wild seabirds, such as African penguins, Cape Cormorants, Swift, Sandwich, Common Terns, and Cape Gannets.
Avian influenza is a viral infection that can infect not only birds, but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds.
According to TMNP, there are currently an estimated 3000 penguins in Simon’s Town, so the affected numbers are still very low at this stage. However, other rehabilitation centres are monitoring the situation closely.
The virus is spread from bird to bird, by contaminated bird faeces and other body excretions, and by handling sick birds. Even though the virus is unlikely to infect humans, precautions should still be taken. Gloves, shoes, clothes, and other protective gear should be worn if handling birds.
Visitors are also urged to shower, change and clean their shoes and clothes before visiting other seabird colonies or poultry farms to prevent contamination from one site to another.