AVIAN FLU HITS PAMPANGA. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol (in black shirt) meets in San Fernando City with Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda on the avian flu that hit poultry farms in the province. Also in photo are Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian Arlyne Vytiaco and Senior Supt. Joel Consulta, director of the Pampanga police office.
By ALFRED GABOT and FRANCO REGALA
SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga (via PhilAmPress) –The Philippines has recorded its first bird flu outbreak and has started culling around 200,000 fowls in San Luis, Pampanga to control the spread of the virus, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
Pinol said the Bureau of Animal Industry has declared a quarantine zone within a one kilometre radius of the farms where the outbreak was confirmed.
“An estimated 200,000 birds – chicken, ducks, quails, pigeons and fighting roosters – are now being culled and will be buried in the ground,” Pinol said at a media briefing at the Department of Agriculture office in Quezon City. He visited the affected area on August 15.
Another seven-kilometer radius has been declared as a Controlled Zone where no fowls, eggs or other products could be brought out, he said.
About 100 Quarantine Officers have set up stations in all roads from San Luis backed up by officials of the provincial government and the Philippine National Police.
All vehicles coming out of the area will be sprayed with disinfectants to ensure the containment of the virus.
After all the birds in the San Luis area have been culled, Quarantine Officers will disinfect all the six farms where the outbreak occurred.
After 21 days, Sentinel Birds will be deployed in the affected farms to serve as the basis in determining whether the virus is still present in the area.
If the Sentinel Birds will not show signs of the disease, the Quarantine Restrictions will be lifted after 90 days Pinol said.
Governors and Mayors of Provinces surrounding San Luis, Pampanga have been asked to establish Quarantine Stations to regulate the entry of poultry and poultry products into their areas.
“I have ordered the ban of the shipment of fowls from Luzon to other parts of the country,” he said.
However, the transhipment through the Manila International Airport of chicks, hatching eggs and other fowls from other countries coming into Luzon or other parts of the country will be allowed with the advisory that stringent quarantine protocols must be observed, he said.
This means that chicken brought in from the United States intended for shipment to the Visayas or Mindanao may not be taken out of the boxes and must be loaded directly into the connecting flights, Pinol said.
Governor Pineda declared on August 11 the province under a state of calamity over the outbreak of avian flu virus.
Pineda said the move aims to help the affected local government units (LGUs) fund preventive measures for the virus.
Secretary Pinol said the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), the credit agency of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, has readied an initial loan of P50-million to be extended to some 2,000 farmers in San Luis town and other neighbouring areas in Pampanga whose poultry farms were hit by the Avian Influenza.
Each farming family will be entitled to a P25,000 loan package under the Survival and Recovery (SURE) Loaning Program for farmers and fisher folks affected by natural and man-made calamity, he said.
Of the amount, P5,000 will be given as a grant while the remaining P20,000 will be a no-collateral and no-interest loan payable in two years.
The SURE Loan package will be on top of the P80 compensation for every head of chicken or ducks which would be culled and buried in the course of cleaning up Ground Zero.
In addition to the loan and compensation, Calamity Fund Assistance and a bigger loan package are also being prepared so that the affected farmers could start anew after the area has been declared to be free of the presence of the Bird Flu virus.
In a meeting with Pampanga officials, Secretary Piñol estimated the number of dead fowls at 37,000 out of the 194,000 population in the province as of August 4, this year.
“It is with sadness and great concern that the Department of Agriculture is confirming the outbreak of Avian influenza in the town of San Luis [Pampanga]. We have already made a series of tests confirming the type of Avian Influenza that hit San Luis town is H5,” said Pinol.
He declared that all fowls in the one-kilometer radius epicenter in San Luis will be culled and buried. Estimated to be affected are around 200,000 birds, chickens, quails, and ducks.
Culling would be done in five farms of layers and four farms of quails in Barangay San Carlos and four farms of ducks in nearby Barangay Sta. Rita for a total of 132, 500 heads, Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) focal person for avian flu control, said.
The culling method, agriculture authorities said, goes like this: the fowls will be placed in container vans and poisoned with carbon dioxide.The birds will then be buried in a single farm.
Piñol said no eggs could be brought out from the areas as 12 quarantine teams are now guarding the exit points of San Luis, all equipped with power sprays to disinfect all vehicles coming out of the said town.
Piñol also ordered a ban on the transport of poultry from Central Luzon to control the outbreak.
Senior Supt. Joel Consulta, Pampanga police director, said nine checkpoints have been established in San Luis town alone.
The secretary, in a meeting with affected livestock owners in the area, agreed to compensate for the birds that would be culled at a rate of about P80 per head.
He also called on other LGU executives in other province to implement quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the flu.
There is no reported human transmission of the avian flu virus as of press time.
The sectoral group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said they have taken precautions but reminded everyone to await confirmatory tests.
SINAG’s Rosendo So wondered aloud if the Department of Agriculture had thought it through before making an announcement that would impact the local poultry industry and consumers.
The strain of avian flu implicated “is suspect still,” but even then, the industry is implementing a 1-kilometer radius quarantine as precaution.
Samples are being submitted for verification. “Often, tests turns to be false positive and if test turns [out ot be] true positive, the involved farm and nearby will cull all poultry stocks,” So explained.
He stressed the need for confirmatory tests, which the DA normally does in Australia.
In 2004, he recalled, “nag positive initially; then confirmatory test in Australia revealed na negative – that should be the protocol.”
He assured the public “the industry is very disciplined” and will always act responsibly.
“We wonder kung pinag isipan ng DA ang impact nito sa local poultry industry and consumers, basta basta sila nag a-announce without consulting the industry,” So said.
He wanted to know “how was the test conducted? What sample size? What procedure was followed, etc. What percentage of those tested turned out positive? Was the OIE process followed?” OIE is the French acronym for the World Organization of Animal Health.