New flu strain H7N1 found on S. African ostriches

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South African authorities have detected a new strain of bird flu in the Western Cape region, as the industry continues to struggle under a 2011 EU ban on meat exports, an official said Tuesday.

"It's a single farm where there were some positive reactions last week. ... Follow-up tests have been done, and some are positive for H7N1," said Mr Piet Kleyn, the chief executive of the South African Ostrich Business Chamber.

Mr Kleyn said the virus in birds on a farm in Oudtshoorn was picked up during a "routine test" and is currently contained to the single farm.

"The immediate step is that the farm will be quarantined (along with) all farms in a radius of three kilometres," he said.

South Africa is one of the largest producers of ostrich products, and EU countries are the top destination.

Mr Kleyn said the strain was not good news for the industry as it was still reeling under the 2011 EU ban on meat exports following a flu outbreak.

The outbreak resulted in the culling of thousands of ostriches to prevent the spread of the virus.

Normally the industry produces 250,000 birds per year, earning 2.1 billion rand (S$352 million) a year in exports.