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YET ANOTHER AVIAN FLU OUTBREAK IN SEABIRDS

Posted on the 23rd March 2022

MARINE BIRD ALERT: Please be on the lookout for sick and dying birds

A few years ago, in December 2017, a large amount of dead and sick marine bird species were found along the Overstrand coastline and estuaries. The birds were infected with the H5N8 virus. Most of the affected seabirds were Swift Terns.
In 2020 and 2021 the Cape Cormorants were especially hard hit by the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of avian influenza and thousands of birds were killed.

In the last month, new cases of H5N8 were positively identified in Swift Terns. The first confirmed, positive case was from St. Helena Bay and unfortunately the Greater Crested Tern had to be euthanised. Then Swift Terns were found at the Botriver Estuary near Hermanus that also tested positive for the H5N8 avian influenza.

We would like to urge residents to be alert and aware of the situation but not to panic about it.
The signs too look out for in affected birds are;
• neurological signs such as twitching, and head tremors and the birds may have difficulty breathing.
• Terns and other flying birds often lose their ability to sustain flight and will be seen flapping around on land or in shallow water.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO if you find a sick bird, especially if you have a pet bird at home or work in the poultry or ostrich industry:
• Please do not touch these birds with your bare hands; wear gloves and disinfect your hands.
• If you are walking with your dogs along the beach and it happens to come into contact with an affected bird, make sure that you disinfect its paws before the dog enters the house.

If you do come across any dead seabirds on the beach, you can report it to the APSS (The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary) by sending the following information:
• Photo of the birds,
• note the location,
• number of dead birds and
• species (if you can identify the bird).

The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), with the support of Overstrand Municipality’s Environmental Section, Overberg District Municipality and CapeNature are monitoring the Overstrand area.

Sick birds in the Overstrand can be reported to your nearest local State Vet, BirdLife SA/BirdLife Overberg, CapeNature office or the Overstrand Municipality's Environmental Department (028 316 3724) - If possible, with GPS co-ordinates in order for it to be collected. Alternatively phone, APSS on 072 598 7117 or penguin@apss.org.za.

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