The holidays are over and it is time to hit the ground running again. This year is promising to be our most exciting year as we plan to solidify all the achievements of the past two years and finally getting the national programmes implemented. Here are some of the things we can look forward to in 2014:

Government Engagement
We spent the better part of 2013 reviewing the protocols of the controlled diseases with the help of the SAPA Poultry Health Group vets and the GDARD, with the support of the DAFF colleagues. The drafts that were developed have been well thought through and will go a long way in simplifying how we deal with controlled diseases as industry and government together. These protocols will be circulated for further input and thereafter signed off and implemented.


We will continue to work with DAFF in establishing the national disease status of poultry and thereafter conduct a disease risk assessment to establish where the highest risk of disease introduction will come from. This will allow us to effectively protect the national flock from potential disease introduction, particularly of those diseases that South Africa is currently free.


In order to effect good disease control, it is important that solutions to culls and the cross provincial chicken movements are found. This will again help to limit the disease risks posed by the uncontrolled and unmonitored movement of chickens. It is also important to impress the importance of applying disease prevention actions that will protect not only the commercial sector, but also the backyard poultry to stop the spread of diseases and the devastation caused, a case in point being the current Newcastle Disease that is causing a lot of havoc in the country across all production systems.


Training of State Vet Poultry Experts
The PDMA in collaboration with the Poultry Section of Onderstepoort successfully trained 18 state vets in 2013. Follow up contact sessions were conducted to enhance the initial training. The contact sessions were equally successful, thanks to the support of the Avimune vets and GDARD. The plan for 2014 is to train a new group of 21 state vets from various provinces. Symposia are planned for 2014 to continue with contact sessions for all the 2013 and 2014 to gain experience with dealing with field cases. The invitation will be extended to include all consulting vets to enhance the experience. This will also be used as a platform to get feedback on disease research and also what the future research requirements will be. This is an exciting adventure and we look forward to the benefits that will emanate from this initiative.


The highlight is that the one week refresher course at Onderstepoort carries 26 CPD points for the veterinarians, which is a great bonus to add to the practical knowledge they gain from the course.


Development of the National Residue Monitoring Programme (NRMP)
It may seem as if very minimum progress has been made in this regard. That is not the case. Now industry has shared the protocols used to meet the retailers’ requirements with DAFF. This is the platform currently being used to develop the national programme. Work has already started in looking at spot tests of meat at various points to establish the current practices. This information is vital to the development of the standards that producers will need to meet to comply with the increasing quality standards demanded by the consumers.


Microbial Reduction Programme
DAFF VPH is planning a large study on both microbials (mainly bacteria) and residues to establish where the various meat commodities are in terms of their standards. The poultry industry has already started extensive engagements to ensure that it plays a key role in supporting this work. The industry is very well placed to achieve this as it was already engaging with VPH for the same work. The industry has started the consultations with the Onderstepoort Epidemiologists to ensure that scientifically defendable sampling protocols are developed. These will feed into the survey planned by DAFF as well as the industry planned risk assessment. The bacteria to be surveyed have already been selected and all programmes will track the same bacteria to ensure synergy and consistency.


Producers will be requested to make their results for the routine bacterial tests that they perform to develop an extensive national database that will serve as a knowledge bank for both industry and DAFF.

Developing a searchable registered products database
After many months of trial and error and working towards a simple system for the product database, we have finally managed to develop a system that will work much better and will be an effective tool for making information available to producers to make farming easy. The database will be go live during the first quarter of 2014, and will be accessible through a link on the PDMA website. This is a great milestone for the agency and we plan to have all registered Act 36 products listed by end of second quarter 2014.


Technical Support for DPFO Members
Admittedly, this is one area of the agency’s work that is lagging behind. It is our intention to pay special attention to this work to ensure the agency continues to be inclusive. The plan is to work with the provincial structures of the DPFO to organise the members so that we can quantify the amount of resources required to provide meaningful support. We will work to assist with production improvement plans, with special emphasis on management issues as well as disease prevention through improved biosecurity and vaccination.


The DPFO members should support this initiative that will go a long way in assisting with issues that are holding them back and stopping them from reaching their potential. Your cooperation will be the determining factor in this regard. To those of you who were devastated by Newcastle Disease in 2013, we plan to engage you to ensure your flocks are adequately protected.

Improved Communication

The agency strives to employ all types of communications tools to ensure that information is passed to the stakeholders timeously. It is in this light that we will continue to improve the experience on our website. The website is updated almost on a daily basis or as new information comes in. To make sure that our communication is inclusive, more disease information will be communicated to the producers in a form of short news clips on a weekly basis. Disease related information will be communicated on a weekly basis.


The PDMA relies on input from the field for information. It is for this reason that a disease notification application for tablets and smart phones has been developed. We would like to request all producers to encourage their veterinarians to feed information through so that everyone can benefit from up to date field knowledge that will allow the agency to send the hot news.

So, 2013 was extremely exciting for the agency. From where things stand, it looks like 2014 will be an even more excited year, where you will begin to see the benefit of having a hub for all disease related matters. We look forward to 2014 and your continued engagement.

Please remember to keep up with your vaccinations to protect your flocks from the disease scourges that continue to engulf the country and cause devastation!

The holidays are over and it is time to hit the ground running again. This year is promising to be our most exciting year as we plan to solidify all the achievements of the past two years and finally getting the national programmes implemented. Here are some of the things we can look forward to in 2014:

Government Engagement

We spent the better part of 2013 reviewing the protocols of the controlled diseases with the help of the SAPA Poultry Health Group vets and the GDARD, with the support of the DAFF colleagues. The drafts that were developed have been well thought through and will go a long way in simplifying how we deal with controlled diseases as industry and government together. These protocols will be circulated for further input and thereafter signed off and implemented.

We will continue to work with DAFF in establishing the national disease status of poultry and thereafter conduct a disease risk assessment to establish where the highest risk of disease introduction will come from. This will allow us to effectively protect the national flock from potential disease introduction, particularly of those diseases that South Africa is currently free.

In order to effect good disease control, it is important that solutions to culls and the cross provincial chicken movements are found. This will again help to limit the disease risks posed by the uncontrolled and unmonitored movement of chickens. It is also important to impress the importance of applying disease prevention actions that will protect not only the commercial sector, but also the backyard poultry to stop the spread of diseases and the devastation caused, a case in point being the current Newcastle Disease that is causing a lot of havoc in the country across all production systems.

Training of State Vet Poultry Experts

The PDMA in collaboration with the Poultry Section of Onderstepoort successfully trained 18 state vets in 2013. Follow up contact sessions were conducted to enhance the initial training. The contact sessions were equally successful, thanks to the support of the Avimune vets and GDARD. The plan for 2014 is to train a new group of 21 state vets from various provinces. Symposia are planned for 2014 to continue with contact sessions for all the 2013 and 2014 to gain experience with dealing with field cases. The invitation will be extended to include all consulting vets to enhance the experience. This will also be used as a platform to get feedback on disease research and also what the future research requirements will be. This is an exciting adventure and we look forward to the benefits that will emanate from this initiative.

The highlight is that the one week refresher course at Onderstepoort carries 26 CPD points for the veterinarians, which is a great bonus to add to the practical knowledge they gain from the course.

Development of the National Residue Monitoring Programme (NRMP)

It may seem as if very minimum progress has been made in this regard. That is not the case. Now industry has shared the protocols used to meet the retailers’ requirements with DAFF. This is the platform currently being used to develop the national programme.  Work has already started in looking at spot tests of meat at various points to establish the current practices. This information is vital to the development of the standards that producers will need to meet to comply with the increasing quality standards demanded by the consumers.

Microbial Reduction Programme

DAFF VPH is planning a large study on both microbials (mainly bacteria) and residues to establish where the various meat commodities are in terms of their standards. The poultry industry has already started extensive engagements to ensure that it plays a key role in supporting this work. The industry is very well placed to achieve this as it was already engaging with VPH for the same work. The industry has started the consultations with the Onderstepoort Epidemiologists to ensure that scientifically defendable sampling protocols are developed. These will feed into the survey planned by DAFF as well as the industry planned risk assessment. The bacteria to be surveyed have already been selected and all programmes will track the same bacteria to ensure synergy and consistency.

Producers will be requested to make their results for the routine bacterial tests that they perform to develop an extensive national database that will serve as a knowledge bank for both industry and DAFF.

Developing a searchable registered products database

After many months of trial and error and working towards a simple system for the product database, we have finally managed to develop a system that will work much better and will be an effective tool for making information available to producers to make farming easy. The database will be go live during the first quarter of 2014, and will be accessible through a link on the PDMA website. This is a great milestone for the agency and we plan to have all registered Act 36 products listed by end of second quarter 2014.

Technical Support for DPFO Members

Admittedly, this is one area of the agency’s work that is lagging behind. It is our intention to pay special attention to this work to ensure the agency continues to be inclusive. The plan is to work with the provincial structures of the DPFO to organise the members so that we can quantify the amount of resources required to provide meaningful support. We will work to assist with production improvement plans, with special emphasis on management issues as well as disease prevention through improved biosecurity and vaccination.

The DPFO members should support this initiative that will go a long way in assisting with issues that are holding them back and stopping them from reaching their potential. Your cooperation will be the determining factor in this regard. To those of you who were devastated by Newcastle Disease in 2013, we plan to engage you to ensure your flocks are adequately protected.

Improved Communication

The agency strives to employ all types of communications tools to ensure that information is passed to the stakeholders timeously. It is in this light that we will continue to improve the experience on our website. The website is updated almost on a daily basis or as new information comes in. To make sure that our communication is inclusive, more disease information will be communicated to the producers in a form of short news clips on a weekly basis. Disease related information will be communicated on a weekly basis.

The PDMA relies on input from the field for information. It is for this reason that a disease notification application for tablets and smart phones has been developed. We would like to request all producers to encourage their veterinarians to feed information through so that everyone can benefit from up to date field knowledge that will allow the agency to send the hot news.

So, 2013 was extremely exciting for the agency. From where things stand, it looks like 2014 will be an even more excited year, where you will begin to see the benefit of having a hub for all disease related matters. We look forward to 2014 and your continued engagement.

Please remember to keep up with your vaccinations to protect your flocks from the disease scourges that continue to engulf the country and cause devastation!

A successful year of State Vets and PDMA Partnership

The PDMA has reported several times during the year about the partnerships that it is fostering with the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). The partnership was also extended to the Provincial Heads to ensure adequate engagement of the Provincial State Vets. It is a proud moment as the agency takes a look at the most successful aspect of this journey, the training of state vets on poultry. This initiative has seen 18 State Vets benefiting immensely from the training and being able to cope with poultry related issues much more efficiently.

Let us also take this moment to that the Onderstepoort Poultry Section, Drs Buks Wandrag and Peter Smith and their team for being invaluable partners, through providing the initial refresher course for the state vets. Also for providing the resources required to undertake this quality training service. This is also an opportunity to thank all those private vets who gave their time to providing mentorship to the state vets. Their participation enhanced the training through exposure to real field problems that farmers deal with on a daily basis.

Due to the high number of state vets from certain provinces, it was not possible to have a mentor for each state vet. In order to ensure that each state vet gets an opportunity to participate in more than just the refresher course, contact sessions were organise in partnership with Avimune and Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD). The contact sessions were designed as case discussions on Avian Influenza and Salmonella. The rational was to create real-life problems for handling these controlled diseases in the field. As both government and industry has responsibilities when it comes to dealing with controlled diseases, it was essential to have participation from both.

The contact sessions were a success thanks to the commitment of the partners, in particular Dr Shahn Bisschop and his team of veterinarians at Avimune and to the GDARD, specifically Drs Deryn Petty and Peter Geertsma for giving up their time to provide their valuable input and to provide the benefit of their years of experience in working with controlled diseases within government services.

The success of this year’s programme has motivated the agency to organise the next group of state vets to benefit from this training. The next training sessions are scheduled for the first three months of 2014 and will take a similar shape as this year’s training with minor improvements on this year’s programme. The target for 2014 is 21 state vets, and this is an achievable target judging from the commitments that has been received thus far from the provinces.

In order to keep the current momentum going, the agency plans to hold 2 symposia that with involved the 2013 and 2014 trained state vets and the private poultry vets. The focus of these symposia will be case discussions on diseases of importance and also looking at research updates and identifying areas that need more research. This will be the perfect platform for researchers, state vets and private vets to share their experiences and knowledge as well as crafting new ways of working together to fight some of the devastating poultry diseases. It will also be an opportunity to stop some of the potentially devastating diseases from getting out of hand.

It is the vision of the agency to build the trust between the state and the industry to be able to work towards the same goal, which is all about Protecting the National Flock. This will ensure food security and that the industry continues to strive to produce safe products for the consumers.

From the PDMA and SAPA, a big thank you to all of you who made the 2013 state vets training programme a success.

Poultry Disease Management Agency

At the PDMA September was a very busy month dedicated to setting up systems that will improve the communication between the agency and its various stakeholders. The work will continue through October to ensure that the platforms are switched-on before year-end.

Communication platforms

The PDMA website is up and running and most of the information that the agency holds can be accessed through the website. The website will overtime become a very important communication tool and also a source of very useful and needed information. The web address is www.poultrydiseases.co.za. Please do visit the site and engage with the agency.

In addition to this we have looked at ways of improving the way information is collected from the producers and the veterinarians. To this effect, a versatile application has been developed which will allow us to collect various types of information. As a start, we have looked at reporting of diseases, collecting the farm locations and also tracking the infectious bronchitis strains. The information gathered on the application will be used to feed reports back to the producers. The information will also enable us to issue disease outbreak warnings so that the farmers can be more vigilant.

Searchable registered products database

The development of this tool has seen some energy injection in the last month or two. The programme has now been developed, data entry done on the products we received from the manufacturers. The next stage is for the manufacturers to check the validity of the information before the site is switched-on. As soon as the manufacturer are satisfied with the information as per the approved package inserts, the site will go live and will be accessible through the PDMA website.

State Vets Communication

In order to keep up with the state vet training initiative, 2 contact sessions have been scheduled. The first one is scheduled for the 11th October 2013, where Avian Influenza cases will be covered. The second one for 15th November 2013 and Salmonella will be discussed in great details. The sessions are conducted in collaboration with the Avimune veterinarians. The goal is to get a good understanding of the controlled diseases and how each disease should be handled by both the state and the industry. This will allow for better coordination and standardisation of the responses to outbreak situations.

The agency has also issued a call for nominations of provincial state vets who will undergo training at Onderstepoort beginning of 2014. The response has been slow but we are confident that the target number of 20 state vets will be reached. It is also a target of ours to ensure that each province has at least 2 representatives.

The communication between the PDMA and DAFF has improved quite significantly over the year and it is invisaged tjhat this will be strengthened by the agreements that are in draft and will be signed within the month of October.

Disease Surveillance Part 1

Role of Disease Surveillance and Reporting

The threat of diseases is a daily reality for all chicken farmers. It is important for farmers to be aware and prepared for any introduction of both new and old diseases. Biosecurity remains a very important aspect of disease control and management. Of equal importance, is the awareness of the disease status of the farm, status of the new birds on the farm and also the disease status of the personnel with particular reference to zoonotic diseases. Continued surveillance of the farm is very important to create an awareness of the current status as well as picking up any new disease introductions. This enables the farmers and veterinarians to control the diseases before they can spread widely throughout the farm as well as nationally.

The agency is in the process of investigating disease reporting systems that will be used by the veterinarian to continuously update the disease status of the national flock. The veterinarian will require the participation of the farmers to create a relevant system. In the long run, the industry should be able to introduce tools to fight existing diseases and prevent the spread of new diseases.

This series of articles aims to provide the farmers with the relevant facts around disease surveillance and reporting.

What is disease surveillance?

Disease surveillance is an information-based activity involving the collection, analysis and interpretation of large volumes of data originating from a variety of sources.

The information collated is then used in a number of ways to
• Evaluate the effectiveness of control and preventative health measures
• Monitor changes in infectious agents e.g. trends in development of antimicrobial resistance
• Support animal health planning and the allocation of appropriate resources within the system.
• Identify high risk populations or areas to target interventions
• Provide a valuable archive of disease activity for future reference.

To be effective, the collection of surveillance data must be standardized on a national basis and be made available at local, regional and national level.

Types of surveillance

Passive surveillance
Passive surveillance often gathers disease data from all potential reporting animal health. The data is reported on an on-going basis without any active solicitation by authorities.

Passive surveillance is the most common type of surveillance in humanitarian emergencies. Most surveillance for communicable diseases is passive. The surveillance coordinator may provide training to health workers in how to complete the surveillance forms, and may even send someone to periodically collect forms from health facilities. But little attention is given to individual health workers who report the information.

The data requested of each health worker is minimal. Nonetheless, passive surveillance is often incomplete because there are few incentives for health workers to report.

Active surveillance
An active surveillance system provides stimulus to health care workers in the form of individual feedback or other incentives. Often reporting frequency by individual health workers is monitored; health workers who consistently fail to report or complete the forms incorrectly are provided specific feedback to improve their performance. There may also be incentives provided for complete reporting.


Active surveillance requires substantially more time and resources and is therefore less commonly used in emergencies. But it is often more complete than passive surveillance. It is often used if an outbreak has begun or is suspected to keep close track of the number of cases. Community health workers may be asked to do active case finding in the community in order to detect those patients who may not come to health facilities for treatment.

Sentinel surveillance
Instead of attempting to gather surveillance data from all health care workers, a sentinel surveillance system selects, either randomly or intentionally, a small group of health workers from whom to gather data. These health workers then receive greater attention from health authorities than would be possible with universal surveillance.


Sentinel surveillance also requires more time and resources, but can often produce more detailed data on cases of illness because the health care workers have agreed to participate and may receive incentives. It may be the best type of surveillance if more intensive investigation of each case is necessary to collect the necessary data. For example, sentinel influenza surveillance in the United States collects nasopharyngeal swabs from each patient at selected sites to identify the type of influenza virus.

Continued in Part 2

This article is an adaptation of information from Health Protection Surveillance Centre Ie and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.