WE have one message to send to the Filipino public and all our readers about the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga: Trust the government. It knows what it is doing. Within a few days, it will have the situation fully under control and returned to normal.
With the agriculture and health departments acting swiftly and taking the lead, the government is proving that it has the administrative capability and technical knowhow to effectively deal with the bird flu outbreak in one town in Pampanga. It has imposed restrictions to contain the emergency within the area most affected. It has provided the public with vital information to understand the health hazard, avert public panic, and ensure the vital poultry industry from an economic disaster.
In a media briefing yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol explained the restrictions that government has imposed in the wake of the bird flu outbreak.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Piñol said the restrictions are limited to a 7-kilometer radius, with the Pampanga town of San Luis as ground zero.
“It is in these areas that we have controlled the movement of poultry and poultry products. This means that within the 7-kilometer radius, no one can bring out poultry and poultry products,” he said.
Piñol said workers will cull chicken Monday and Tuesday in order to isolate and kill infected birds.
He reiterated that the virus strain found in birds, including chickens, in San Luis—H5—is not transmissible to humans, although additional samples were sent to an Australian laboratory to determine if it is positive for H5N6, which can affect humans.
The results will be known “within the next 12 days,” he said.
Piñol also took the opportunity to explain that the ban on fowl shipments from Luzon is a “precautionary measure.”
He said that governors and mayors in the region were directed to institute quarantine measures in their localities to prevent the spread of the virus.
For its part, the Department of Health worked round the clock to assure the public that “safety is of utmost concern” to the government.
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said through CNN that proper precaution must be taken by people to prevent possible infection.
He explained that the virus mainly affects birds, and while there is “a potential” of transfer to humans, the possibility of this happening is “very difficult or remote.”
“This is a bird flu virus so it mainly affects birds, not humans,” Tayag clarified.
Human-to-human infections are difficult as well, said Tayag.
“Up to this time, there is no sustained human-to-human transmission. But we are on the lookout because if it mixes with the human influenza virus, it can mutate,” he said.
It is those instances, Tayag said, that can cause alarm. But he squarely laid to rest the worries of people who are fond of eating chicken.
“Properly cooked chicken not only protects you against bird flu, but against other pathogens as well,” he said.
Tayag explained that safety measures are in place in the areas where the virus was detected. Epidemiologists have been deployed in farms to check on the health of farm workers.
Should there be signs of illness—fever, sore throat, or cough—these individuals will be tested to determine whether they are positive of the bird flu virus.
These measures taken together will go a long way in preventing public panic and establishing normality in Pampanga and the entire country.