No human cases of avian flu yet – DoH

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The Department of Health (DoH) on Friday said there have been no confirmed human cases of avian influenza in the affected towns of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija since the Department of Agriculture (DoA) announced an outbreak there.

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The DoH was able to identify 34 “suspect” cases of bird flu, 30 of which came from Pampanga and four from Nueva Ecija. As of August 24, all of them turned out negative for avian flu.

The suspected cases showed flu-like symptoms and were immediately placed in isolation as a precautionary measure to avoid further human-to-human infection. They were also given Oseltamivir capsules for treatment.

There are still seven cases being monitored for possible infection and are isolated in Jose B. Lingad Medical Center for testing.

Socorro Lupisan, DoH director for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, said, “Tansmission from birds to humans is very, very low, but if you get the disease, the mortality rate is high. Dpending on their health condition, only about 30 to 50 perent (of patients) will recover.”

The H5N6 virus affects the respiratory system and patients with other health complications such as asthma, diabetes or low immune system may develop a severe infection that may lead to respiratory failure, Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian Joy Lagayan said.

DoH epidemiologic surveillance and health workers have been deployed to investigate and report suspected human cases within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The DoH designated Jose B. Lingad Memorial Medical Center in San Fernando, Pampanga and Paulino Garcia Memorial and Research Medical Center in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija as referral hospitals for assessment of suspected cases and collection of specimens for laboratory analysis.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said poultry products are safe to eat and consume as long as they are well cooked. She clarified the public misconception regarding the disease and demonstrated it by eating chicken and egg in a news briefing along with Lupisan and Bureau of Animal Welfare and Industry veterinarian Joy Lagayan.

“It cannot be transmitted through eating. It is transmitted by respiratory route or by direct contact and you have to have exposure to wild fowls or birds,” she said.

The DoH and the DoA are working together to ensure that poultry and its byproducts are safe for consumption, Ubial said. “I call on everyone to be vigilant, follow the advisories issued by concerned government agencies and to be equipped with the right information about the disease,” she added.

The influenza strain was confirmed and identified to be avian influenza type A, subtype H5, N6 known to be transmissible to humans. Since the virus was first detected in 2013, the first-ever human transmission was recorded in 2014 in China. From 2014, 20 human cases have been reported and there were two deaths. The last known human case of avian influenza A (H5N6) transmission was recorded in China on December 1, 2016. Past outbreaks of H5N6 strain were reported in Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam as well as in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Greece.

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