DA reports bird flu in Pampanga town

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By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

THE Department of Agriculture has ordered the culling of about 200,000 fowl in a town in Pampanga where cases of avian influenza have been confirmed.

“As of today we have already established quarantine stations in at least 12 exit points in San Luis, Pampanga where an outbreak of avian influenza subtype H5 was reported and confirmed after four tests,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a press conference at the department’s head office on Friday, Aug. 11.

The type of influenza that afflicted the town “is a notifiable disease that can cause illness and deaths to both animals and humans,” said Dr. Arlene Asteria V. Vytiaco, who is with the animal welfare division of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

Mr. Piñol for his part said the first cases were observed in April, but the farm owners kept the incidents to themselves. They reported the cases to authorities only when the dead fowl reached around 37,000, Mr. Piñol also said, adding that, of the six affected farms in the town, three reported 100% mortality among their birds.

He said the culling started yesterday and will be completed in three days. The local government units of San Luis and Pampanga, with BAI’s assistance, will conduct the culling and destruction of all chickens, ducks and quails within the 1 kilometer (km) radius of the farms where the cases were reported, Mr. Piñol added.

BAI will then deploy “sentinel” animals in the since disinfected areas 20 days after to determine whether the virus is still present. The quarantine is expected to be be lifted within 90 days, Mr. Piñol said.

Ms. Vytiaco said initial samples collected from a farm in Pampanga that reported “very high” mortality in poultry showed positive results when the samples were tested at the bureau’s laboratory.

A 7-km. control zone has also been established for surveillance. The 12-quarantine checkpoints within the 1-km. radius are tasked to check incoming and outgoing vehicles moving livestock and poultry to limit animal movements within the area.

Mr. Piñol allayed fears that the outbreak will lead to a rise in chicken prices. He also said the department will compensate farmers whose fowl will be culled at P80 per head. He added that a loan program is ready to help them recover.