Malacañang on Saturday called on the public to remain calm but vigilant amid the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said that the Department of Health (DoH) is assisting the Department of Agriculture (DA) in efforts to contain the virus.
With the confirmation, Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Saturday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to come up with a comprehensive plan on how to deal with the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga.
He raised the need to immediately control the spread of the virus and “to prevent it from taking people’s lives and more livelihood.”
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Pampanga following the DA’s confirmation of the outbreak yesterday. As of this time, there has been no report of bird-to-human contamination,” Abella said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Friday said around 400,000 fowls in San Luis town in Pampanga will be culled and buried. “We have declared a one-kilometer quarantine radius with the epicenter being in San Luis.”
Piñol said that the outbreak of avian influenza Type-A, subtype H4 began in a quail farm before the virus spread to poultry farms in Barangay San Agustin in San Luis town. Some 37,000 birds have already died from the virus, and a number of farms have reported a mortality rate of as high as 100 percent.
Sen. Francis Escudero said the Department of Agriculture “must act very fast to contain it and to disseminate accurate and updated information to the public in order to avoid contamination and panic.”
“The DoH is assisting the DA for avian flu investigation and containment activities, which include flu vaccinations and protective equipment for poultry handlers and responders,” Abella said.
He added that heightened surveillance for flu-like syndromes is now being instituted in Pampanga within a seven-kilometer radius of the affected poultry farms.
Abella called on residents near the affected areas saying: “We ask our people to remain calm yet vigilant. Any person living or residing in affected areas or who had been exposed to dead chickens who becomes sick with flu or flu-like illness, such as fever and/or sore throat/cough should immediately report to their local health center or nearest hospital for laboratory test.”
“Also, the DOH assures our people that avian flu is transferred via respiratory routes. Properly cooked chicken meat and eggs remain safe to eat,” he added.
Watch out for profiteers
Meanwhile, Pangilinan said, “With the DA’s announcement of culling hundreds of thousands of fowls, we urge the Department of Trade and Industry to watch out for profiteers who might take advantage of the situation and increase the prices of raw chicken meat and processed food in the market.”
He said the DA and the DoH should conduct a massive information campaign such as community assemblies to educate the public about the virus, its dangers, and on ways of avoiding it.
“What is the H5 avian flu strain? How is it different from the much-dreaded A(H1N1) bird flu that spread elsewhere around the world in 2009?” Pangilinan asked.
The information drive should include the protocols to be followed to prevent the further spread of the virus, he said.
“Since the virus is known to infect humans as well, people, especially those who handle fowls, should know how to protect themselves,” Pangilinan said.
The DA should also ensure that only uncontaminated meat is available to the consuming public at standard prices.
“As it is, there is only one affected area and there are many other sources of chicken meat in the country,” Pangilinan said.
He lauded the national government’s commitment to compensate poultry farmers for every culled bird.
“But more than this, we push for greater government support for the micro and small businesses and the industry in general through funding and other assistance as they battle the virus and recover from their loses,” he said.
“Experts have repeatedly warned that the avian flu pandemic is inevitable, even as the timing is unpredictable. We must act as one to ensure that we are spared from its devastating consequences,” he added.
BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO