MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Friday, August 11, that there were no reports of animal-to-human transmission of the avian influenza or bird flu yet in the Philippines.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Friday confirmed reports of an outbreak of avian influenza type A subtype H5 affecting 6 farms in the town of San Luis, Pampanga.
“‘Yung type ng virus na ‘to, wala pa tayong reported na animal-to-human transmission (This type of virus, we have no reports yet of animal-to-human transmission),” the secretary told reporters during Friday’s press briefing.
He added: “Healthy naman ‘yung mga workers in the area, wala naman silang [team] napansin, kasi pumasok sila sa area e, wala naman silang napansin na nagkasakit doon sa mga farms na pinuntahan nila.”
(The workers in the area are healthy, our team did not observe anything, because they entered the area, and they did not observe anyone who got sick in those farms they visited.)
The Department of Health (DOH) already sent a team to assess the workers in the areas affected.
“The DOH has stepped-up the human flu like-illness surveillance since the reported human influenza outbreaks in Hong Kong and India few months back and will now look for human cases who may have been exposed to avian flu strain in affected areas,” the DOH said in a statement.
Celia Carlos of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) said they have already advised workers and their contacts to immediately report to the DOH if they experience influenza-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle pain, colds, conjunctivitis, or diarrhea.
Carlos said that according to the World Health Organization, avian influenza in humans are usually H5N1 or H5N7.
“Avian [influenza] is not readily transmissible from animals to humans. In other words, the transmission risk is low, although once the infection is acquired, the mortality is high; according to reports, it’s about 50% on the average,” she explained.
She added: “It is a concern, and the exposed persons which develop symptoms should therefore be assessed, especially those in the extremes of age – below 2 years old and above 50 years old – and those with concomitant medical problems.”
Arlene Vytiaco of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said tests for the N1 component yielded negative results.
“So next thing to do is isu-submit sa reference lab sa Australia, kasi dalawa po ‘yung sub-types natin na transmissible to man: H5N1 at H5N6. So ipapadala natin sa Australia to verify kung ano ‘yung N component,” Vytiaco explained.
(So next thing to do is to submit to the reference laboratory in Australia, because there are two sub-types that are transmissible to man: H5N1 and H5N6. So we’ll send this to Australia to verify what the N component is.)
The BAI is already in the process of sending samples for further testing to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, a World Organization for Animal reference laboratory for avian influenza.
The health department said RITM has the capacity to confirm cases, and that it will coordinate with other concerned agencies to prevent human cases.
“The DOH has supply of anti-flu medication and commodities whenever regional health offices and hospitals will require these. In the interim, all health providers should observe respiratory precautions when taking care of patients with flu or flu-like illness. Properly cooked chicken remains safe to eat,” the department added. – Rappler.com
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