CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – Four commercial poultry farms in the province of Western Cape, South Africa, were infected with an avian influenza virus, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture reported. The highly pathogenic H5 virus was confirmed at two of the farms.

The affected farms are near the cities of Worcester, Malmesbury and Hopefield, the agency said. Approximately 134,000 birds have been culled or have died from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Western Cape Veterinary Services is investigating other suspected cases.

“The relationship to the viruses present in the north of the country is unconfirmed,” the department said.

In April, approximately 300 chickens died of avian influenza on a commercial chicken farm in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa. Since then, a total of five outbreaks have been recorded — four in Gauteng and one outbreak in North West, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in Pretoria, South Africa, said. All affected farms have been quarantined, and control measures implemented.

“Genetic evaluation has confirmed that the outbreak reported in commercial layers on 13 of April in Gauteng and the one on commercial broiler-breeders in the North West seem to have been caused by non-identical AI strains,” DALRRD said. “These two outbreaks were therefore more likely to have been caused by separate introductions. It is essential for everyone across the country to remain on high alert.”

The agency added that all the neighboring countries have lifted the ban on exports of live chicken and unprocessed products, except Lesotho, which banned exports from Gauteng following the April 13 outbreak.

“Hong Kong has notified DALRRD of a temporary suspension of the importation of all poultry (carcass, parts and offal) products (including eggs) from the affected municipalities within the Gauteng and North West,” the agency noted.