Bird flu outbreak spreads to Nueva Ecija

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AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Friday confirmed that new cases of poultry deaths were reported in two farms in Nueva Ecija province.

“Two new cases of Avian influenza have been confirmed by the Bureau of Animal Industry in Jaen and San Isidro towns of Nueva Ecija today,” Piñol said in a post on his Facebook account.

“The confirmation was made after a series of laboratory tests on specimens gathered from quails and layer chickens were conducted by the Animal Diseases Detection Laboratory,” he added.

Piñol said that unlike in San Luis, Pampanga where similar cases were reported three months later, the Nueva Ecija cases were immediately reported.


NO EASY JOB A worker feeds chickens at a poultry farm in Barangay San Roque, San Isidro town in Nueva Ecija, where cases of bird flu were confirmed Friday. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

Quarantine teams were immediately established even before the laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the virus, he said.

“A one-kilometer contained radius and a seven-kilometer controlled radius were established just like in San Luis, Pampanga,” he said.

The farm in Jaen raised quails, which were wiped out, while the farm in San Isidro was a layer poultry facility of about 20,000 heads.

Piñol said chicken layers and other fowls within the one-kilometer radius have been culled to stop the virus from spreading.

6,000 chickens culled
At least 6,000 sick chickens were culled by troops from the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) on Thursday and Friday, following the outbreak of avian flu influenza in two villages of San Luis, Pampanga.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom spokesman, said the 303 soldiers deployed to Barangays Sta. Rita and San Carlos in Pampanga came from the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Peacekeeping Operation Center.

“They will augment [personnel]in the conduct of the chicken culling activity of the Bureau of Animal Industry, Department of Agriculture in response to the Avian Influenza Virus Infection in the area,” Nato said in a statement.

Only healthy soldiers were allowed by the Department of Health (DoH) and DA to cull chickens. Soldiers with colds were barred.

The troops were trained and individually screened based on the parameters set by the DoH before it authorized the soldiers to depopulate the chickens.

Aside from soldiers, military medical personnel from the Fort Magsaysay Station Hospital were deployed to help in the screening process.

Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag of the DoH on Friday said the department would send a team to two farms in Nueva Ecija after the announcement of another bird flu outbreak.

Tayag reminded the public that the bird flu outbreak is an animal health concern and should not be a cause of alarm.

“We are in a state of heightened vigilance because we know that this bird flu situation is in feathered animals, particularly in chickens. There is no report of infection. We are continuously monitoring that. It remains an animal health problem,” he said.

“The DoH is only monitoring those who work at the poultry farms affected by the bird flu outbreak. Not included are those who are living there and does not have a poultry farm, and if you live there but did not touch any affected chicken, you will not be monitored by the DoH,” he added.

Earlier, two poultry farmers suspected of having bird flu turned out negative.

The strain that hit the chickens of San Luis was avian influenza type A subtype H5, as disclosed by Piñol in a news briefing. So far, there is no confirmed case of chick-to-human transmission of avian flu in the Philippines.

Farmers paid next week
Piñol also anno unced on Friday that poultry farmers whose chickens were culled would be paid starting next week.

“Ducks and layer chicken will be valued at P80 per head, broiler chicken valued at P70 and quails P10 per head,” Piñol said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a calamity assistance of P100 million for the farmers while the Departments of Trade and Industry, Labor and Agriculture would provide funds for livelihood projects.

Piñol also said army soldiers, backed up by policemen, were enlisted to help contain the bird flu virus.

“Earlier today, members of the 48th Infantry Battalion under Col. Carlos Bergonia joined officials and men of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the provincial government of Pampanga, the local government units, the Bureau of Fire Protection of the Office of Civil Defense and the Department of Health in containing a poultry virus which has already killed about 37,000 ducks, quails and poultry in San Luis town in Pampanga since April this year,” he said.

Help needed in culling
The military and police personnel were tasked to help the Bureau of Animal Industry in the culling of more than 500,000 chicken and ducks in 36 farms located within the one-kilometer radius of the “contained area” where the virus was initially discovered, including those inside the seven-kilometer “controlled” radius where farm owners have volunteered to have their fowls culled.

“The help of the army soldiers and the policemen was sought because of the huge number of fowls that have to be culled as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the virus,” Piñol said.

“With the help of the army soldiers and policemen, the remaining 500,000 fowls are expected to be culled in three days,” the Agriculture chief added.

Piñol said that after the fowls are disposed of, bio-security teams will disinfect the farms using sprayers.

“Twenty-one days after the disinfection, sentinel birds will be placed in the affected farms and observed up to two weeks, after which, if the sentinel birds will not show manifestations of the virus, the area will be declared cleared,” he said.

Poultry farmers in the area will not be allowed to raise chicken and ducks until after a 90-day period following international disease control protocols.

The Agriculture chief also said the ban on the shipment of poultry and poultry products from Luzon to other parts of the country would be lifted within the next two to three weeks if no other incidents of bird flu are reported in the area or other areas.

KENNETH HERNANDEZ

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