SAN ISIDRO, Nueva Ecija: To prevent spreading of the avian pest, agriculture officials started burning and dumping about 83,586 infected birds in the towns of San Isidro and Jaen here on Sunday.
The government also set up a quarantine zone for poultry workers and those who directly handled the incineration of the infected fowls.
The Philippine Army, using backhoes, assisted in burning and dumping the fowls –chickens, quails and ducks – in the province’s major poultry source, MMJAY farms in Barangay San Roque, San Isidro and in the adjoining Jaen town where the pest was believed to have further spread.
In San Isidro, at least 68 soldier-trainees were sent to cull around 68,586 fowls for incineration. They are expected to finish the task within three to five days while a total of 15,000 quails, ducks and chickens were burned in Jaen.
Recently, around 9,000 quails and (backyard) native chickens were reported dead from the bird flu virus in Barangay Imbunia in Jaen. Some 44 Army trainees assisted in culling the 15,000 fowls left on Sunday.
On Saturday, Agriculture Sec. Manny Piñol and Department of Health (DoH) officials held a dialogue here with Mayor Cesario Lopez, as well local and village officials on the process in culling the infected birds.
Jessie Fantone, DoH–Central Luzon chief epidemiologist, said avian flu transmission to humans is “rare but possible,” adding that infected birds can also transmit the virus to hogs and other livestock.
While bird flu does not generally infect humans, health authorities advised residents in these areas, including poultry farm workers, to be extra cautious. As a preventive step the DoH placed 25 workers in San Isidro and five in Jaen under monitoring in their respective rural health offices.
The best move for the government, aside from making a show of eating cooked chicken, is to incinerate them and dump them, the mayor said.
The local health office also advised residents especially those near the reported contaminated farms to observe cleanliness and sanitation practices. It is possible that people who have direct contact with the infected birds and their surroundings can suffer from mild to severe cases of fever.
A quarantine zone has been set at one-kilometer from the infected farms.
Another big farm, the Anupol Poultry Farm Inc., is under watch. It is within the seven-kilometer radius and has 125,000 fowls, municipal agriculture officer, Rossana Calma said.
Health officials said that even if they wore preventive gear, the soldiers who burned and dumped the fowls will also be kept in the quarantine area for 10 days.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has done various research since the avian influenza was reported over a decade ago, said infected birds can possibly shed the virus by their saliva, mucous, and feces.
CELSO M. CAJUCOM