THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has identified the avian influenza strain, which infected the chickens in San Luis town in Pampanga, as H5N6, a “low-risk” virus that could be transmitted to humans.
“Based on the results from the Australian (testing center), it was tested for the N subtype and was found to be positive for the N6,” Bureau of Animal Industry Chief Arlene Vytiaco said in a press conference on Thursday.
She said that while the virus could be transmitted to humans, the “rate of mortality and transmission are very, very low,”
“Nag-surveillance nga ang Department of Health sa mga farm workers, except for two people, wala naman po silang nakita na iba pa na nagkaroon ng flu-like symptoms at saka yung dalawa naman na nakitaan nila ng sintomas were [tested]negative,” she added.
(The Department of Health conducted surveillance on the farm workers, and except for two people, it had not seen others who have exhibited flu-lie symptoms and the two who showed those symptoms were negative.)
Vytiaco said that three countries in Southeast Asia has the H5 N6 [virus], but no human case has been reported so far.
“Sa Japan they had H5N6 and even nagkaroon sila nyan wala pa raw human case. In Southeast Asia, yung Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam also had H5N6 but there are no human case as well,” she said.
For his part, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol assured the public that the H5N6 strain was not a risk to human health.
“In as far assuring our people that the strain that we have here is not risky to human health. The fact the farm workers had been there since April, and none of them got sick is an assurance that it’s not that serious,” Piñol said.
“Actually early on we’re already received an unconfirmed report that it was [the]H5N6 strain but of course in the absence of official confirmation I decide not to divulge it,” the agriculture chief added.
Piñol also said that his agency was currently coordinating with the DOH to ensure that farmers from San Luis, Pampanga and the towns of San Isidro and Jaen in Nueva Ecija would not be infected by the virus.
“There is no vaccine for the virus because we cannot develop a cure since we did not have a strain that is present or existing,” he said.
Piñol said they have yet to determine how the virus managed to enter and infected a farm in San Luis, Pampanga.
“The bio-security experts are still looking into these, wala pa kaming conclusive findings on how the bird flu virus reached that quail farm in Pampanga and spread to other areas,” he said.
Piñol said at least 407,604 fowls in Pampanga have been culled and about 253,900 from Nueva Ecija have been killed to prevent the spread of the disease to other areas.
“So as of today, we can safely say that we have completed the culling operations within the 1-kilometer radius, and in the case of San Luis we have completed the culling operations in the farms which volunteered to have their fowls culled to contain the virus . . . and also the problem of to bring out their poultry and other products,” he said.
Previously, the virus was known as avian influenza type A subtype H5, based on the results of the laboratory tests by the DOH and confirmed by the World Organization for Animal Health.