DA to cull 200K fowls as PH reports first case of avian flu
The Department of Agriculture (DA) ordered the slaughter of some 200,000 birds as Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced the country’s first avian flu case for the year.
Tests done by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) confirmed the H5 strain of the virus at a farm in Barangay San Agustin in San Luis, Pampanga after its owner reported that several chickens, quails and ducks had suddenly died, Secretary Piñol told reporters.
In a report submitted to BAI, indication of the virus started as early as May, but poultry operators were reluctant to report the incident. The situation worsened in July when deaths of fowls estimated to reach 37,000. Based on the report, the flu spread to six poultry farms also within San Luis, Pampanga.
DA officials are scheduled to initiate the slaughter of fowls today (Friday) that will affect all farms located within the one kilometer radius. Piñol said the number of caged fowls to be exterminated will reach 200,000 but can go as high as one million, including free range, stray fowls and fighting cocks in San Luis.
“I initially said 400k but upon actual inspection, 200k birds will be culled, including stray animals,” he said.
“We really have to do it (extermination of fowls) because we don’t want the disease to spread. I already ordered our quarantine department to set up quarantine stations in the area,” he added.
Piñol already informed President Rodrigo Duterte and Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial of the outbreak and said appropriate measures will be done accordingly.
A directive banning the shipment of fowls from Luzon to other parts of the country should also be issued today, according to the secretary.
Currently, the avian flu virus is not yet highly pathogenic or deadly, as there are still no reported cases of poultry-to-human contamination.
Piñol said his department is looking at two possible causes of the avian flu. He said it can be caused by migratory birds in Candaba swamp also in Pampanga or by an ongoing smuggling of peking duck from China being shipped into Subic, the nearest strategic port from the province.
With a possible fowl shortage, DA is looking at focusing on increasing production in Mindanao to meet the strong fowl demand come the month of December. Piñol said they are looking for other sources of chicks and hatching eggs that will not come from Luzon.
The secretary assured, however, that the DA was able to confine the virus in the area. He added that needed compensation will be given to the affected poultry operators. Farm-gate price for chicken is around P50 to P70, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
He added that the country’s agriculture performance in the third quarter will not be affected very much.
For the industry group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) chairman Rosendo So, the avian flu case should be subjected to a confirmatory first before being announced.
So cited a case in 2005 wherein ducks were initially reported by BAI to be infected by a low-risk flu strain, but turned out to be negative for the virus.
Results of confirmatory tests from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) showed that there was no active infection in the ducks.
“That should be the protocol, and the damage has already been done to the local industry,” he said. JPV