DA confirms bird flu outbreak in Pampanga

By Louise Maureen Simeon

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture has confirmed an outbreak of avian influenza virus, the first case for the country after several decades, in San Luis, Pampanga which already killed close to 40,000 poultry heads.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol reported that test specimens confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5 in the town of San Agustin in San Luis, Pampanga, killing 37,000 birds covering six farms particularly poultry, quail and ducks.
“There were said to be indications as early as May but the commercial poultry operators did not report it immediately. Then the situation worsened around July,” Piñol told reporters.
While there has been no report yet of poultry to human contamination, the DA has decided to kill the other 400,000 captive birds, valued at P25 million to P28 million, within the town to avoid the spread of the virus.
“I immediately ordered the deployment of quarantine officers within the one-kilometer radius. We will kill all poultry as there are a lot of those being used for cockfights,” Piñol said.
“I don’t care if we have to kill a million including those free range and stray fowls. What is that compared to the whole poultry industry? We have to do it because we don’t want the disease to spread,” he added.
Piñol said initial reports showed that the first outbreak started in a certain quail farm, killing around 50 of the 70 ducks, wiping out all the quails, and eventually spreading in the poultry farms.
San Luis is a highly agricultural town where the dominant crop is palay, followed by vegetables and orchards. Agri-business like inland fish culture, poultry, piggery and other livestock raising is also present.
It serves as a satellite municipality of Pampanga urban centers, being a major supplier of food.

Tracing the source

For the longest time, the Philippines is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that remains free from the dreaded avian influenza virus.
The virus, which resurfaced in Asia in 2003, crippled poultry industries in neighboring countries such as Vietnam.
According to the Agri chief, DA and its attached agency Bureau of Animal Industry are still tracing the possible source and carrier of the virus.
“We have two possible sources. First is the migratory birds and second is the ongoing smuggling of Peking duck from China, possibly coursed through the Subic area,” Piñol said.
Apart from confining the area, the department has ordered the ban on the shipment of fowls from Luzon to the other parts of the country.
“The good thing about the situation is that we are an archipelagic country. If there’s an outbreak in Luzon, we can still prevent it from spreading in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Piñol said.
Furthermore, the DA is now discussing its next course of action should there be a shortage of processed poultry products due to the outbreak of the virus, particularly as the Christmas season nears.
“It will obviously affect the food chain, especially we are nearing the -ber months. We have to increase the production of poultry and poultry products in Mindanao,” Piñol said.
“We will have to find other sources for chicks and hatching eggs because majority really comes from Luzon,” he added.
The DA, in coordination with the Department of Health, said it will continue to monitor the situation in Pampanga and the nearby provinces to ensure that the bird flu will no longer spread especially in major poultry producing areas.

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