No confirmed human cases of bird flu yet – DOH

Mara Cepeda
No confirmed human cases of bird flu yet – DOH
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial eats fried chicken and boiled egg during the press conference to show they are still safe to consume despite the bird flu outbreak

MANILA, Philippines – There is still no confirmed human infection of the avian influenza or bird flu H5N6 strain in the Philippines as of Thursday, August 24. 

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial gave an update on the bird flu outbreak that hit San Luis, Pampanga and Jaen and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija on Friday, August 25.

“As of August 24, 2017, there has been no confirmed human case due to influenza type A H5N6 in the country,” said Ubial in a press conference. 

She said the DOH was able to identify 34 suspect human cases after the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed the bird flu outbreak on August 11. Of the 34 suspect cases, 30 were from San Luis, Pampanga, and 4 were from Nueva Ecija. (READ: MAP: Barangays near bird flu outbreak in Pampanga)

“They were promptly placed in isolation as part of precautionary measures to avert any possible human to human transmission of infection,” said Ubial. 

The suspect cases were also given the antiviral Oseltamivir while waiting for the laboratory results from the Research Institute for Topical Medicine (RITM). All 34 cases tested negative for bird flu as of Thursday. 

The DA already confirmed that the H5N6 strain of bird flu affected San Luis, Pampanga. But Arlene Vytiaco from the Bureau of Animal Industry said the transmission rate to humans of the H5N6 strain is “very, very low.”

Once the animal has the disease, nagkakaroon ng respiratory [signs]. Tinatamaan ‘yung kanilang trachea, lungs… and minsan torticollis or umiikot ‘yung leeg, yung paralysis and then death,” said Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian Joy Lagayan. 

(Once the animal has the disease, respiratory signs appear. Their trachea is hit, lungs… and sometimes they will have torticollis or neck bending, paralysis, and then death.)

As for humans, Ubial said those affected with H5N6 will exhibit flu-like symptoms. 

Ang ating treatment for bird flu is usually symptomatic… Tinitingnan natin sa mga cases kung ano yung pine-present ng pasyente. For example, nade-dehydrate sila, so binibigyan ng dextrose. Binibigyan ng electrolytes if nag-iiba ang composition ng electrolytes nila,” she said.

(Our treatment for bird flu is symptomatic… We look at the cases and observe what the patients present. For example, if they are dehydrated, we give them dextrose. We give them electrolytes if their electrolyte composition changes.) 

The DOH chief, however, said the public should remain calm, since H5N6 is a new virus and bird to human transmission is “very rare.” (READ: 3 tips from DOH on how to be safe from bird flu)

Safe to eat chicken, poultry products

During the press conference, Ubial, RITM director Socorro Lupisan, and Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian Joy Lagayan even ate fried chicken and boiled eggs to demonstrate that it is still safe to eat them as long as they are cooked properly.  

Ubial also gave assurances the DOH is working closely with the DA to ensure that poultry products are safe for consumption.


The DOH has also deployed disease surveillance officers and health workers to investigate and report suspected human cases within 24 to 48 hours. 

The RITM is tasked to receive samples for bird flu detection. The RITM, along with the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center, are on heightened alert status, with medical teams ready to attend to possible bird flu cases. 

“I call on everyone to be vigilant, follow advisories issued by concerned government agencies and to be equipped with the right information about the disease,” Ubial said. –

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.