6 tips from DOH on how to be safe from bird flu

Mara Cepeda

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6 tips from DOH on how to be safe from bird flu
(UPDATED) DOH spokesperson Eric Tayag assures the public they may still eat chicken, but they must cook it properly first

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Towns in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija have confirmed cases of avian influenza or bird flu, but the government urges the public to remain calm.

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial and spokesperson Eric Tayag both said in separate interview that there are still no reported transmission of bird flu cases to humans.

Still, the DOH official gave several precautions Filipinos must observe to protect themselves against the bird flu outbreak, which is expected to affect the agriculture sector’s output in the 3rd quarter of this year. 

Here are the DOH’s 6 tips on bird flu:

1. Avoid exposure to infected fowls. Ubial said the public must refrain from being exposed to any bird suspected to be sick. “Kung pwede, ‘wag silang magpa-expose sa live birds and fowl. ‘Yun’ yung pinakasource ng avian influenza,” said Ubial. (As muc as possible, they should not be exposed to live birds and fowl. They are the main source of avian influenza.)

2. Always wash your hands. Ubial said proper handwashing is crucial to avoid any type of infection, including bird flu. “Any contact with fowl or, shall we say, fecal material, wash your hands before eating and after using toilet. Make handwashing a regular activity,” she said. 

3. Cook chicken properly. Tayag assured the public they may still consume chicken and other poultry products, but he said they must be cooked properly. “No pink parts, clear fluid,” said Tayag. 

4. Personnel involved in depopulation must wear the right gear. Tayag advised those involved in the culling and depopulation of the chickens to always wear their personal protective equipment. “Monitor for signs of illness such as fever, sore throat, or cough. If sick, cover nose and mouth with mask, then go visit a clinic or hospital,” said Tayag.

5. Disinfect the personal protective equipment. Ubial gave the ingredients for the mixture people may use to disinfect their personal protective equipment. “Disinfection is easy. It’s one milliliter of bleach, 99 millileter of water dilutation, and they can use that as disinfectant,” she said. Farm workers must not bring their equipment outside the farm as well.

6. Report unusual poultry deaths. Tayag said doing so would allow the Department of Agriculture (DA) to begin containment procedures for the birds and prevent the possible spread of the disease. 

On Saturday, August 19, Assistant to the Presidential Spokesperson China Jocson urged the public to refrain from spreading unverified information on bird flu.

“We ask our people to remain calm yet vigilant and to refrain from spreading unverified information that may cause undue alarm and panic,” said Jocson.

Malacañang assured the public that DA and DOH officials have responded quickly to the outbreak.

“They have established heightened surveillance and community action teams for detection of other fowl deaths and possible flu cases in humans. They have likewise established advance command posts in San Nicolas, Pampanga; and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija with capacity to respond 24/7,” said Jocson.

Members of the military are also helping out in the culling of the infected birds. Jocson said they are equipped with personal protective equipment and prophylaxis medicines that could last them for 10 days. 

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol already advised Pampanga residents to stop cockfighting in the province until the bird flu outbreak has been contained.

Piñol said they also plan to start paying farmer owners affected by the depopulation efforts to contain the disease. – Rappler.com    

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.