Pampanga under state of calamity amid bird flu outbreak; losses seen to hit P2B

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Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol (in black shirt) confirms the outbreak of H5 bird flu virus at a press briefing in San Fernando City. To his right is Governor Lilia Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda and to his left is BAI veterinarian and spokesperson Arlyne Vytiaco. At right is Senior Supt. Joel Consulta, director of the Pampanga police office. PHOTO BY JESS MALABANAN, INTERAKSYON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The entire Pampanga province has been placed under a state of calamity following the outbreak of avian flu that Governor Lilia Pineda estimated could cost the poultry sector at least P2 billion in losses.

The declaration of a state of calamity was embodied in a resolution approved by the Sanguniang Panlalawigan, as local authorities enforced restrictions imposed by the Department of Agriculture to contain the spread of the virus that has killed thousands of fowl since April.

Governor Pineda noted that Pampanga is one of the primary sources of poultry products sold in Metro Manila and other markets of Central Luzon. Nonetheless, she said that local authorities will strictly enforce the one-kilometer quarantine radius thrown around Barangay San Carlos in San Luis town where a poultry farm tested positive for the H5 strain.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who presided at the press briefing hosted by the local government and the Bureau of Animal Industry here, ordered the restriction of poultry products in the entire Luzon area to prevent the spread of the virus.

Policemen and agriculture authorities have imposed checks on all exit and entry points in at least 12 Pampanga towns to avoid the movement of poultry products going in and out of the municipalities in the southeastern section of the province.

“It is with sadness and great concern that the Department of Agriculture is confirming the outbreak of Avian influenza in the town of San Luis [Pampanga]. We have already made a series of tests confirming the type of Avian Influenza that hit San Luis town is H5,” said Pinol at the press conference, which followed his earlier announcement Friday morning in Pangasinan.

Pinol then motored from Pangasinan to San Fernando City.

The DA is initiating measures to mitigate the crisis, said Piñol, and allayed fears that this kind of virus could affect humans.

Culling set in 13 farms

He said poultry owners affected by the bird flu virus will be compensated. Close to 150,000 heads of chickens including game fowl, ducks and quail would be “depopulated” in the next days to come. The culling will be done through carbon dioxide suffocation (or gas chamber).

The culling has been set in five farms of layers and four farms in Barangay San Carlo and four farms of ducks in nearby Bgy. Sta Rita, said Arlene Vytiaco, BAI veterinarian and spokesperson.

Vytiaco said the H5 virus was detected only in the first week of August when a poultry owner reported the deaths of at least 15,000 quail birds in a village sometime in April and May.

“Samples brought to BAI yielded H5 Avian Influenza or bird flu,” said Vytiaco, adding that tests for the dangerous H7 strain turned out negative.

The source of the disease and the strain of avian flu were not immediately clear, but Piñol said tests indicate there has been no animal-to-human transmission of the disease.

He said his department is investigating whether the disease had been carried by migratory birds or arrived through the continued smuggling of ducks from China.

The one-kilometer radius covers five barangays in three towns – San Luis, Mexico and Sta. Ana. The transport of poultry products will be strictly prohibited in these municipalities.

Vytiaco said the quarantine period will last for 90 days, covering the clearing and disinfecting of the communities where the bird flu virus broke out.

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