In the Republic of Botswana in southern Africa, the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus has been detected for the first time. 

According to the official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a flock of exotic backyard poultry tested positive for the virus during the third week of July. Of the 25 Orpington birds affected, eight died and the rest were culled. 

Source of the infection is uncertain. The location — at Bokaa in the southeastern district of Kgatleng — appears to be within 30 kilometers of the border with South Africa, where this virus variant has been circulating for several months. 

Further cases in Benin

At the end of August, the agriculture ministry of the Republic of Benin confirmed that HPAI virus has been detected in two communities in the city of Abomey-Calavi. According to a Benin Web TV report, at least 400 poultry had been culled in one of those communities. This follows government guidelines for contaminated birds to be destroyed. 

Located in the far south of the West African state, Abomey-Calavi is in the department of Atlantique.

One month previously, authorities in Benin officially registered the first cases of HPAI in the country since 2008. According to the report to the OIE, very high mortality was observed in a flock of around 6,600 laying hens at the end of July. The birds were kept in pens at a farm in Ouémé. This department is in the southeast of the country, and lies between Atlantique and the border with Nigeria in the east. 

Fourth outbreak reported in Togo

Bordering Benin to the west is the Togolese Republic (Togo), which recorded its first cases of HPAI linked to the H5N1 HPAI virus variant at the start of June this year. 

In the past few days, the national veterinary authority has officially registered a further outbreak linked to this virus. 

Almost 900 of the 1,880 laying hens died at a farm in Baguida town. According to the OIE report, almost all of the 1,000  pullets died at the premises, while there were no signs of disease in a separate building under the same ownership that comprised cockerels and immature pullets. 

Although the source of infection is unclear, authorities believe the virus may have been introduced by the owner’s wife, who sells eggs at a local market, or on the reused egg trays brought by traders to collect eggs from the farm. Another risk factor is the premises’ proximity to the nearby Zio River, which attracts wild birds. 

Located on the outskirts of the capital, Lomé, the affected farm is in the Golfe prefecture in the Maritime region. All three of the Republic’s outbreaks over the past two months have been in the same region — two in Zio prefecture, and one in neighboring Golfe. Directly impacted by the three outbreaks officially registered so far have been around 3,600 poultry. 

Mild form of avian flu detected in South African flock

In mid-July, 38 out of a commercial flock of 1,438 birds tested positive for a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus of the H5 family. The affected premises was near Hessequa in the Western Cape, according to the official OIE report.

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The species affected was not identified, but previous outbreaks in the series have occurred in commercial ostriches. 

The latest cases bring the total outbreaks since August of last year to four. Directly impacted have been more than 5,300 birds. 

Also circulating in South Africa are HPAI viruses of the H5N1 group. Involving a total of more than three million birds, this virus family has been detected in well over 80 outbreaks in South African poultry and other birds since March of this year. 

Ghanaian poultry farmers set to receive compensation while Nigerian owners wait

Farmers in the West African state have welcomed a proposal that will see them receiving financial compensation from the government. 

According to Modern Ghana, the proposal still requires Cabinet approval. Benefiting from the payments will be members of the Greater Accra Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana whose birds were lost as a result of recent HPAI outbreaks. 

Government figures put the loss at around 110,000 birds in this outbreak, reports this source. Previously HPAI outbreaks occurred in Ghana in 2007, 2015, 2016, and 2018. 

Official reports to the OIE indicate that the H5 HPAI virus family returned to Ghana in early July after a near three-year absence. Seven village flocks totaling around 9,600 poultry in the Greater Accra and Central regions were initially affected by the disease. Since then, further outbreaks have been suspected in Volta and Ashanti. 

In the Lagos state in Nigeria, there is so far no concrete proposal for farmers affected by HPAI to receive financial support from the authorities. According to Guardian, 70% of poultry owners have been impacted by the disease, and bird losses are reported as “heavy,” while farmers struggle to stay in business. They are calling for government help.

At the end of August, unofficial sources reported the mortality of 160,000 poultry in several districts of another southern Nigerian state, Delta.

As well as those countries mentioned above, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recorded cases of H5 HPAI in Lesotho over the past year, and H5N1 HPAI in Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal among wild birds and/or domestic poultry.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.