THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has temporarily suspended the shipment of live domestic and wild birds and their products, including poultry meat, day-old chick, eggs, semen and manure from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao in a bid to contain further spread of avian influenza from a town in Pampanga province.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Tuesday said the government is exerting all efforts to contain the spread of the avian flu from the town of San Luis, Pampanga, which was placed under immediate quarantine issued by the DA last Thursday, August 10, when the disease was confirmed.
Piñol added that the ban on the shipment of poultry meat and poultry products from Luzon to the rest of the country is an aggressive step to contain the spread of the avian influenza to other parts of the Philippines.
Appealing for understanding and support of the public, including poultry farm owners and workers, he said the ban will be temporary and will be lifted as soon as experts conclude that the risk of spreading the virus has been eliminated.
The temporary ban on the shipment of chicken and other fowl from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao is contained in Memorandum Circular 09, Series of 2017, signed by Dr. Enrico Garzon Jr., Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Livestock and Director of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
“In view of the avian influenza outbreak in the province of Pampanga and to prevent further spread of the disease in other parts of Luzon and to Visayas and Mindanao … No movement of LIVE domestic and wild birds including poultry meat, day-old chick, eggs, semen and manure shall be allowed from Luzon [mainland Luzon and island provinces of Luzon]to Visayas and Mindanao,” Memorandum Circular 09 stated.
Garzon noted that “[s]ince Visayas and Mindanao remain free from avian influenza, the movement of live poultry, poultry mat, day-old chicks, eggs, semen manure and other products from Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon will be allowed.”
Shipment of poultry meat and poultry products from Luzon to any point in Luzon, the DA secretary said, will be allowed “provided this is outside of the 7-kilometer radius control area of Pampanga.”
Piñol added that Luzon-to-Luzon shipment of poultry meat and poultry products will be allowed under the following conditions:
Live domestic and wild birds, including but not limited to chickens, duck, geese, quails, doves and pigeons shall be accompanied by a shipping permit and a veterinary health certificate issued by a government sector veterinarian that these products were sourced from farms with no incidence of avian influenza for the past 21 days prior to shipment.
Poultry meat, including but not limited to fresh, frozen meat, uncooked poultry products, shall be accompanied by a shipping permit and a meat inspection certificate.
Piñol said the temporary ban will be lifted when there are no new cases reported after the stamping out activity, including the disinfection of all affected areas and surveillance.
Meanwhile, Department of Health (DoH) Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag also on Tuesday said they are monitoring two suspect cases among those exposed to chickens affected by avian flu in San Luis.
In a news briefing, Tayag added that he was given a preliminary report on those interviewed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and found two suspect cases with flu symptoms.
“I was given a preliminary report where they interviewed 20 people from different farms and found two of them with [flu]symptoms. One with cough and one with fever. Influenza [symptoms]are fever, cough and sore throat,” he said.
He added they will release the results on Wednesday to confirm whether they are infected with the avian flu virus.
“However, due to them having symptoms, they are called suspect cases. Tomorrow we will release the results to know if this is due to bird flu,” Tayag said.
Suspect cases are those who had direct contact with the affected poultry and with flu-like symptoms.
The two suspect cases were taken to a hospital where they are being isolated and monitored by the RITM for 48 hours before confirming if they carry the virus or not.
Tayag said cross-infection of chicken to human is rare while human to human infection is “with great difficulty” as studies on the disease show that among a million exposed in other countries, only 200 were infected by avian flu.
He added that those who take human influenza vaccine will not be protected from bird flu infection because the vaccine only prevents mutation of the virus.
“It [influenza vaccine]does not protect you. Human influenza [vaccine]will protect you from human influenza. This is bird flu virus,” Tayag said.
No cause for alarm
“There is an important effect if you are vaccinated. Example, you work at the [affected]farm and you are vaccinated from influenza, so you are preventing mutation of the influenza virus,” he added.
Tayag explained that if a person who has human influenza gets infected by the bird flu virus, the two strains of influenza virus will mutate.
The DoH has reiterated that there is no cause for alarm because this is an animal health virus, not a public health problem.
A person infected with avian flu shows some of these symptoms: mild conjunctivitis or swelling of the eyes and severe pneumonia.
Left untreated, bird flu can be fatal.
The Health department urges farmers in Pampanga who have flu-like symptoms to report to their local government unit so they could be brought to regional hospitals for isolation and monitoring.
According to RITM Director Celia Carlos, the avian flu strains that have been known to jump to humans are the H5N1 and H5N7 sub-types.
Tayag said they have stockpiled around 8,000 capsules of Oseltamivir, an anti-viral medication that blocks the actions of influenza virus types A and B in the body.
The medicine is used to treat influenza in people who have had flu symptoms for 2 days or less.
The Health department is yet to receive a report from the DA on what strain affected the chickens in Pampanga.
NEIL A. ALCOBER, KENNETH HERNANDEZ AND BENJIE L. VERGARA