PH records first avian flu outbreak

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2017 12:50 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2017 08:14 PM

State of calamity declared in Pampanga

MANILA (4TH UPDATE) - The Philippines has recorded its first bird flu outbreak and will cull around 200,000 fowls to control the spread of the virus, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Friday.

Around 37,000 fowls have died of the Avian Influenza Type A Subtype H5 in San Luis town, Pampanga, Piñol said in a press briefing Friday afternoon.

Piñol said 6 farms in Barangays San Carlos and Santa Rita in San Luis, Pampanga were affected by the outbreak.

"We are officially confirming the outbreak of Avian Influenza," he said.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda has declared a state of calamity in the province, Piñol said.

A 1-km radius quarantine area within San Luis town will be implemented, while another 7-km radius controlled area has been declared.

All fowls within the quarantine area will be culled within the next 3 days to control the virus, while fowls and eggs from the controlled area are not allowed to be brought out.

"All fowls found within the [quarantine] area will be culled, and buried," he said.

SOURCE OF OUTBREAK

Investigation of the outbreak began last Aug. 4, Piñol said. But deaths of quail and ducks began on the last week of April, followed by reported deaths of chickens in May.

Piñol said the agency has yet to confirm the source of the outbreak as tests would still be conducted in Australia.

"There are still reported and maybe unreported poultry mortalities in the area," he said.

The agriculture chief said 3 farms suffered a 100 percent mortality rate of its fowls, while overall mortality rate in the affected area was placed at 34.5 percent.

A total of 90 quarantine officers have been deployed to the area, Piñol said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has also ordered a ban on the transport of poultry from Luzon to other parts of the country until further notice to control the outbreak.

HEALTH CONCERNS

Avian influenza is a viral infection that spreads among birds but can infect humans as well.

As of Friday, authorities have not received any report of human infection, Piñol said.

He also allayed concerns over the outbreak, saying the DA has long prepared for it.

"The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry is not unprepared. They have long prepared for this crisis...This is not something that should cause us panic," he said.

In a text message Friday, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial meanwhile said the outbreak is still under the DA's investigation and advised the public to take precautionary measures against the flu.

"Do not go near wild birds or go to farms with fowls! If you have flu symptoms that last longer than 3 days or feel very weak, see a doctor or go to the nearest hospital for testing if its bird flu!" she said.

A team of epidemiologists from the Department of Health (DOH) has also been dispatched to assist the DA in investigating the outbreak, the health department said in a statement. 

The DOH also assured the public that it has a supply of anti-flu medication should regional health offices and hospitals need it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), human infection is primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals. 

The infection may cause diseases such as mild conjunctivitis or swelling of the eyes, severe pneumonia and even death. Interaction with humans infected with the flu, however, does not result in "efficient transmission" between people.
 
The WHO also clarified that there is no evidence that the avian flu can be acquired by eating properly cooked eggs or poultry. -- with a report from Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News