Saturday, August 12, 2017

Avian Flu Outbreak in Pampanga

For the first time since the Asian Avian Flu epidemic in the early 2000s, the Philippines has its initial case of Bird Flu. The municipality of San Luis, Pampanga is the ground zero for the outbreak and an estimated 34,700 birds and fowls have already been registered as the first casualties.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Pinol in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Pauline Ubial has declared a 1-kilometer radius quarantine area in Barangay San Carlos and Sta. Rita, San Luis, Pampanga. The quarantine affecting the declared area means that all ingress and egress will be restricted.

A 7-kilometer radius that is designated as a “controlled area” will require disinfection of all vehicles coming out from within the radius.

According to the DA Secretary, the quarantine will remain in force for 90 days. 

All birds and fowl numbering 200,000 within the quarantined area will be culled and buried in a designated area that has been deemed the proper place for the disposal of the affected birds.

Also, the DA announced that no bird or fowl will be allowed to be marketed out of Luzon Island, the biggest island in the Philippines. In relation to this, Governor of Pampanga Province, Lilia Pineda has declared a State of Calamity in the province.

The DOH with the Regional Institute of Regional Medicine (RITM) confirmed that the virus identified as the H5 strain and all specimens submitted will have a result in 48 hours.  The H5 strain has a known 100% mortality rate in infected birds and fowls.

As this developed, the DOH accordingly has sent specimens to Australia to confirm what N strain the virus has. By discovering the N strain, it can then be determined if the viral outbreak can be transferred to humans as in the case of H5N1 and H6N1 virus strains. The results are expected within 2 weeks of testing.

The DA and DOH, however, stressed that as of now, there are no reported cases of the infection spreading to humans as evidenced by the workers and owners of the poultry farms that remain asymptomatic to Avian Flu disease.

The reports started last August 3 when 3 poultry farms had their entire chicken population die from as of yet undetermined disease and infestation at that time. By August 4, 2017, an investigation has already been started and the deployment of 90 quarantine officers together with policemen commenced. The DA and DOH are as of now conducting monitoring operations in the areas concerned.

The next step will be to introduce sentinel animals into the area to determine if the infections still exist and further protocols for controlling the outbreak will be undertaken.

The DA stated that the chickens affected by the outbreak are layers which mean that only egg production will be affected but no disruption in fresh eggs supply will be experienced in the markets.

The outbreak was first noted in late April 2017, when quails started dying off and then ducks we also affected. But these were largely unreported to authorities.

 The DA assured that chicken meat supply is still safe but strict monitoring is being implemented. 

Workers in the area are being provided by the DA and DOH so as to ensure their safety. Also, the DA stated that it has two theories how the infections occurred since it started with quails and ducks and Pampanga is known for its Candaba Swamp where migratory birds from Mainland Asia seasonally stay. The other theory is that imported ducks were the source.  

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The Mail Man

Author & Editor - The Philippines' Web Magazine on Agriculture.

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