DA confirms H5N6 bird flu strain in Pampanga

Jee Y. Geronimo

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DA confirms H5N6 bird flu strain in Pampanga
(UPDATED) H5N6 is a strain that is transmissible to humans, but the Bureau of Animal Industry says the transmission rate is 'very, very low'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed on Thursday, August 24, that it is the H5N6 strain of the avian influenza or bird flu that hit San Luis, Pampanga.

“Based po sa results from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, na-test na po nila ito for the N subtype and it was tested positive for N6,” Arlene Vytiaco of the Bureau of Animal Industry announced.

(Based on the results from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, they’ve already tested this for the N subtype and it was tested positive for N6.)

Before Thursday’s announcement, the DA only knew that what hit the town of San Luis is avian influenza type A subtype H5. 

H5N6 is a strain that is transmissible to humans, but Vytiaco emphasized that the transmission rate is “very, very low.” (READ: 3 tips from DOH on how to be safe from bird flu)

“It only causes low morbidity – [the] infection, transmission to humans is very low – and the mortality rate is even lower,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

She added, “May mortality po, pero worldwide po since 2013 or 2014 na nagkaroon tayo nito, worldwide, wala pang 20 ang namamatay and most of them were from China, at ang mga taong ito were directly exposed sa birds kasi they were working sa live bird markets.”

(There is mortality, but worldwide since 2013 or 2014 when the first case was reported, not more than 20 have died, and most of them were from China and these people were directly exposed to birds because they were working in live bird markets.)

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who said he only learned about the laboratory results during Thursday’s news briefing, said the fact that none of the farm workers in San Luis have gotten sick “is an assurance that it’s not that serious.” 

Two people from the affected areas who showed flu-like symptoms already tested negative for bird flu. 

The Philippines announced the bird flu outbreak on August 11. Since then, at least 470,640 birds have been culled within the controlled (1-km radius) and contained (7-km radius) areas in San Luis, Pampanga.

Bird flu in Nueva Ecija

Bird flu was also confirmed in the towns of Jaen and San Isidro in Nueva Ecija on August 18.

A total of 114,850 quails and 68,950 layer chickens have been culled in Jaen and San Isidro, respectively. (READ: DA lifts ban on poultry shipments from Luzon

On Thursday, Piñol said they have not yet established scientifically that the bird flu cases in Nueva Ecija originated from Pampanga.

Their deduction that it came from San Luis, he said, is based on “practical assumption.”

“We could only surmise, we could only deduce, because of the proximity of San Luis to San Isidro and the proximity of San Isidro to Jaen,” he explained. 

Vytiaco said they will no longer send samples from Jaen and San Isidro to the Australian laboratory for testing because “most likely ‘yun din ang strain natin (most likely that is also the strain there),” referring to H5N6. – 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.