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Gov't monitoring possible human infections amid Pampanga bird flu

The avian influenza in Pampanga does not have the H5N1 strain, authorities said on Friday, even as they assured that the Department of Health is monitoring possible cases of human infection in the area,

Research Institute for Tropical Medicine Assistant Director Celia Carlos said tests confirmed that the virus found in the outbreak area did not have the H5N1 strain. Samples will be sent to Australia to confirm its exact strain and results are expected in two weeks.



Experts have warned of the effect of H5N1 outbreaks, which can cause severe disease and high mortality in humans.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol assured that a quarantine has been set up in the Pampanga town where the outbreak has been recorded.

"We would like to assure the public that the cases of avian influenza, while confirmed, are still confined to San Luis, Pampanga," Piñol said at the Department of Agriculture.

Avian influenza Type A subtype H5 spread from a quail farm to poultry farms in Barangay San Agustin.

Workers on the farms, noted to be healthy at the time of examination, will be quarantined for seven days. Humans around the area can also be quarantined or self-quarantine for seven to 10 days.

Twelve quarantine teams are guarding exit routes with power sprays to disinfect vehicles coming out of the quarantine area. Ninety quarantine officers have been sent to the area to enforce quarantine measures with assistance from police.

Transfer ban

The DA has also temporarily banned the transfer of birds and other products from Pampanga to other parts of Luzon in a circular dated Friday. It also ordered a ban on transporting poultry and other poultry products from Luzon to other parts of the country to prevent an inter-island transfer of the disease.

Five farms with a population of 116,000 birds were identified to have the virus. Piñol said most of the birds identified are layers. fficials said only a portion of the country's egg supply will be affected by the outbreak.

Around 37,000 birds have already died from the virus. Some farms have reported a mortality rate as high as 100 percent.

A total of 200,000 birds, regardless of type or whether they are wild or farmed, within the one-kilometer or 0.6 mile quarantine zone will be culled to stop the spread of the disease over the course of three days. Corpses will be buried in a high place yet to be scouted as per the Department of Health's avian influenza guidelines.

Animals will be quarantined for 90 days while the area around the quarantine area will face a 21-day quarantine period.

Farmers will be compensated P80 per head for the culling although negotiations are ongoing as layers are more expensive than broilers or birds used for meat. A package will be developed to compensate their losses.

Once birds have been culled and farms are disinfected, the Bureau of Animal Industry will send sentinel animals in quarantine areas to test if there are traces of the virus left.

Reason for infection

The DA is looking into two major angles for the infection: contact with migratory birds and smuggling in of Peking duck.

Regardless of the route of infection, the DA is consulting with their lawyers to assess what possible charges may be pursued against vets and animal health farm managers who neglected to report the spread of the virus.

Piñol noted that farms have recorded illness in their birds since the last week of April. He added that the quail farm where the virus originated from had an unsafe setup as quails were put above ducks.

Experts said it is never advisable to mix ducks with poultry as ducks are disease carriers. —JST/KVD, GMA News