July 3, 2006

S. Africa Finds Benign Bird Flu Strain in Ostriches

JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa has found a benign strain of bird flu on an ostrich farm in the country's west, officials said on Monday.

South Africa culled around 15,000 ostriches after a similar outbreak in 2004 in an effort to contain the highly contagious disease.

The European Union resumed ostrich imports from South Africa in November last year after it declared itself free of H5N2 bird flu -- deadly to animals but, unlike the highly pathogenic H5N1 variety, not humans.

The Department of Agriculture said it hoped its poultry exports would not be affected and that it had already started negotiations with South Africa's trade partners.

"The H5N2 strain that was detected near Mossel Bay seems rather similar to the one that South Africa eradicated successfully from ostriches in 2004/2005 and that never crossed over to chickens," the department said.

"South African ostrich and poultry meat remains safe for consumption," the department said in a news release.