In bird flu fight, ‘sentinel’ chicks play key role: get sick
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Day-old chicks will serve as indicators of whether bird flu still stalks the town of San Luis, Pampanga province, or had been stamped out.
At least 600 chicks would be released in the village of San Carlos in San Luis, to determine if the H5N6, a strain of bird flu virus, still exists or not.
Roy Abaya, Central Luzon director of the Department of Agriculture (DA), on Monday said the chicks, called “sentinel birds” for their roles in checking if bird flu still exists, would be released not later than Oct. 12.
The first bird flu outbreak was reported in San Luis. A second outbreak was reported in Jaen and San Isidro towns in Nueva Ecija province. Sentinel chicks would also be released in the Nueva Ecija towns.
Based on a government estimate, the local poultry industry incurred losses of P192 million in the first 12 days of the outbreak that led to unsold stocks of 1.4 million chicken eggs and 7 million duck eggs daily. The outbreak required poultry farmers to destroy 421,132 birds.
At least 600 broilers, or chickens grown for meat, would be put first at Sese’s Farm in San Luis, said Dr. Eduardo Lapuz, chief of the DA’s regulatory division in the region.
That represents 2 percent of the 30,000 egg-laying chickens that were culled in August in the farm, where the virus was first detected.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol declared an outbreak in San Luis on Aug. 11 after government veterinarians validated infestations that were belatedly reported to the DA. On Piñol’s advice, President Duterte declared the outbreak over on Aug. 28.
Lapuz said personnel from the DA and the Bureau of Animal Industry led the cleaning and disinfecting of farms for the trial phase. He said saliva and blood samples would be taken from the chicks every two weeks within the 35-day observation period in compliance with bird flu control protocols.
The DA will declare Pampanga bird flu-free when the sentinel batch does not show avian flu symptoms or when lab tests find no strains of the virus, he said. —Tonette Orejas
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