Manila: A state of calamity was declared in central Luzon where 37,000 birds died at quail and poultry farms and 500,000 more were culled to stop the spread of avian flu, government officials said.
“The outbreak of avian influenza Type A subtype H4 was noted after 37,000 birds died initially in a quail farm, and later, in seven poultry farms in San Agustin village, San Luis town of Pampanga. To stop the outbreak, the department of agriculture decided to cull around 500,000 chickens. Indications of the disease appeared as early as April,” said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol
A 7km quarantine area was declared, covering seven other municipalities including Apalit, Candaba, Mexico, Minalin, San Simon, San Fernando, Sta Ana, and Sto Tomas, said Pinol.
“A number of farms have reported mortality rate of as high as 100 per cent,” he added.
“Pampanga has been placed under a state of calamity due to the outbreak in San Luis town. Heightened surveillance for flu-like syndromes is now instituted within 7km radius of the affected farms [in Pampanga],” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, adding, “We ask our people to remain calm yet vigilant.”
Talking about containment activities, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said, “All hospitals and other health facilities in Pampanga are under heightened monitoring. Health providers have been ordered to observe respiratory precautions when caring for patients with flu or flu-like illness. People who become sick with fever and/or sore throat/cough and had exposure to the dead chickens have been ordered to report to local health centres or to hospitals for laboratory tests.
People who have influenza-like illness for more than three days must undergo tests.”
Ubial added that poultry workers in affected areas had already been given protective equipment and vaccination for influenza. Disinfection of areas with suspected bird flu cases in Pampanga has begun.
“The department of health is assisting the department of agriculture for avian flu investigation and containment activities,” announced Ubial.
A team of epidemiologists, armed with 3,000 kits, has been sent to central Luzon.
Assuaging consumers who were boycotting chicken products, Ubial said, “We don’t get avian flu by eating infected meat. Bird flu is not transmitted through food. It is transmitted through the respiratory system of poultry handlers and those who slaughter chickens.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations said they have extended assistance to prevent the transmission of bird flu to people in the Philippines.