DoH reactivates task force vs bird flu in N. Mindanao
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The resurgence of bird flu cases in neighboring Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia has prompted the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao to reactivate its campaign against the entry of the disease and monitor areas in the region that are regular stopovers of migratory birds.
Jaime Bernadas, DoH 10 director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Task Force Avian Influenza has restarted its monitoring of the disease, caused by the H5N1virus, especially now that a mutant strain has been reported.
“The country is still free from the virus but it does not mean that we should not be vigilant,” he said.
Bernadas said among the things they were monitoring were migratory birds.
He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Service in the region has named zoology technician Donato Bojo to lead the job of monitoring areas where migratory birds were regularly seen.
In a separate interview, Bojo said that in Northern Mindanao, migratory birds were often reported at the Opol Wetlands in Opol, Baybay in Alubijid, Magsaysay Wetlands, Pangasihan in Gingoog City, Bonifacio and Sinacaban wetlands, all in Misamis Oriental; Pulangi Dam in Maramag, Valencia Rice fields in Valencia City, Lake Panumaloy in Don Carlos, Lake Napalit in Pangantucan, all in Bukidnon province; and Karumatan-Mucas area in Kolambugan, Matampay-Bucana in Lala, in Lanao del Norte.
Bojo said these wetlands were traditional stopover sites for avian southward migration.
He said that if an occurrence was monitored, the Task Force Avian Influenza would put up a one-kilometer radius quarantine area.
“No one will be allowed to get in or out of the suspected affected area, including the health and animal experts from the Bureau of Quarantine, the DoH and the DENR, until it was made sure that everyone is free from the virus,” Bojo said.
Bernadas said people should not get too close to migratory birds because they might be carrying the H5N1 virus.
“We are discouraging the public from getting close to the birds in the wetlands. H5N1 virus has a high mortality rate,” he said.
Bernadas said that aside from migratory birds, Task Force Avian Influenza was also keeping a tight watch over airports and seaports.
He said returning Filipinos from abroad and tourists were being assessed to make sure they are not infected with the bird flu virus.
He said the DoH has also reactivated its awareness campaign on the avian flu.
“We have mobilized our health workers to disseminate information on the bird flu. We are urging the public to take this threat seriously,” Bernadas said.
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