Bird flu in PH: Pampanga under state of calamity

Jee Y. Geronimo
Bird flu in PH: Pampanga under state of calamity

Darren Langit

A team from the agriculture department will also look into the culpability of veterinarians and farm managers who did not report the incidence as early as April, when the mortalities started

MANILA, Philippines – Pampanga was placed under a state of calamity on Friday, August 11, after the agriculture department confirmed the avian influenza or bird flu outbreak in the town of San Luis, Pampanga.

“During the coordinative forum today, Governor [Lilia] Pineda declared state of calamity for all of Pampanga province,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said during a press briefing on Friday.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said an estimated population of 200,000 birds from 6 poultry farms will be culled and buried in the next 3 days to contain the outbreak in Pampanga.

According to Piñol, mortalities of poultry started in the last week of April or almost 4 months ago, but the situation was only reported to the department this month.

“Earlier today in Pampanga, I made an announcement that I was forming a team which would investigate and look into the culpability of veterinarians and farm managers who did not report the incidence as early as April,” Piñol said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The secretary lamented how the outbreak was only reported when it could no longer be handled by the farm managers. (READ: DA: No reported animal-to-human transmission of bird flu yet in PH)

“We will ask our lawyers and we will look into the responsibilities of farm managers and veterinarians there to report diseases and outbreaks in their farms. Because if they reported this much earlier, the mortalities would not have reached 37,000,” he said.

But how did the virus enter the country? The department is looking at two possible angles: the location of the farms near the Candaba Swamp – a habitat of migratory birds from China – and the smuggling of Peking ducks.

“All these things we’ll look into, and we’ll determine how the virus entered the country and specifically in that area,” Piñol added.

Since most of the affected farms are commercial layer farms, Piñol said the effect of the outbreak on the supply chain, if ever, would just be on the supply of fresh eggs in the market.

“The egg production, according to Dr [Arlene] Vytiaco, is just consumed by the communities around the farms. That’s why that could be one of the reasons the spread of the disease was contained,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. Vytiaco is a veterinarian from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

Piñol then urged the public not to panic because, according to him, the DA and the BAI are “not unprepared for this crisis.”

He also believes local officials are prepared to handle the situation.

“The farmers who are affected were made to understand that they will be compensated. The lowest compensation would be P80 per head,” he said.

After 21 days of rest period, the farms will be disinfected and the Bureau of Animal Industry will deploy “sentinel animals” to the area.

These animals will be observed closely if they would manifest signs of presence of the virus in the area.

“After it is determined it is safe, the quarantine restrictions will be lifted after 90 days,” the secretary noted. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.