By Franco Regala and Reuters
SAN LUIS, Pampanga — The government plans to cull 400,000 chickens, quails, and ducks after confirming the country’s first outbreak of bird flu in Pampanga, where a declaration of a state of calamity looms, authorities said Friday.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol revealed that the avian flu outbreak was detected in Barangay San Agustin, this town, and later spread to neighboring farms.
Governor Lilia Pineda was planning to declare a state of calamity in the province on Friday although Piñol said there has been no case of human transmission so far.
“We will cull all 400,000 birds within a 1-km (0.6 mile) area. We don’t want diseases to spread,” Pinol said.
The source of the disease and the strain of avian flu were not immediately clear.
Citing initial reports, Piñol said that the first outbreak of subtype H5 virus began in a quail farm, “killing 50 of 70 ducks, wiping out all the quails, and spreading in the poultry farms.”
Close to 40,000 poultry heads, including quail and ducks, have already been slaughtered in the farming village where the highly infectious strain of bird flu was detected.
There were indications as early as April of bird flu hitting one farm, but the situation worsened in July, Piñol said.
He said he has informed President Duterte of the outbreak and a report will be submitted to the Parisbased World Organization for Animal Health.
Currently, Piñol said they are still trying to figure out where the virus came although he noted that the possible carriers could be the migratory birds and the smuggling of Peking duck from China that were possibly coursed through Subic.
Case in point, the Philippines is no longer free of the avian influenza that has spread rapidly across Asia over the past years despite DA’s efforts to implement very strict measures to prevent its entry.
To minimize transfer of the dreaded poultry virus outside the affected area, the DA also banned the shipment of fowls from Luzon to the other parts of the country.
Dr. Andrew B. Villacorta, DA Region 3 regional executive director, said that agencies concerned are presently discussing possible action should the situation worsened and affect the whole poultry industry.
Last year, 52, 000 heads of 45 days (broiler chicken), 140, 801 game fowls (fighting cocks) and another 140, 000 native or free range chickens were also slaughtered in 82 towns in Central Luzon’s seven provinces, which includes Pampanga, after they were hit by another highly contagious virus – Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV). Cross infection The Department of Health (DOH) said cross infection of avian flu or bird flu has a minimal chance of happening, but it could be fatal. “Major epidemic of bird flu in the US have not documented any cross over to human. However, in Vietnam and HKK, a case of human infection had been identified and died. Cross infection to human have minimal [chance] but fatal,” DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said.
Likewise, the WHO said “not all avian influenza viruses cause disease in humans. However, some can infect humans and cause severe disease. The most well-known of these are avian influenza H5N1 viruses which circulate in poultry.”
Avoid bird flu
Ubial gave some reminders on how to avoid avian flu or bird flu.
“We are advising the public to take flu precautions; cover mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, wash hands often; take plenty water and juices. Have enough rest and sleep. Do not go near wild birds or go to farms with fowls,” she said.
“If you have flu symptoms that last longer than three days or feel very weak, see doctor or go to nearest hospital for testing if its bird flu,” she added.
According to the WHO, birds are the natural hosts for avian influenza viruses.
“After an outbreak of A (H5N1) virus in 1997 in poultry in Hong Kong SAR, China, since 2003, this avian and other influenza viruses have spread from Asia to Europe and Africa. In 2013, human infections with the influenza A (H7N9) virus were reported in China,” the WHO disclosed. (With reports from Madelaine B. Miraflor and Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce)