Agri Secretary: Ban on fowl shipment from Luzon a 'precautionary measure'

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Poultry near the infected farms will also be killed.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is taking the safe route to prevent the spread of avian flu in the country, following the ban on shipment of fowls from Luzon.

"These are part of our precautionary measures to ensure we'll be able to contain spread of the virus," Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol told CNN Philippines in an interview on Sunday.

The outbreak was announced on Friday, after the DA reported 37,000 fowls have died since April.

Piñol said he issued the ban on Aug. 11, effective immediately. It will be lifted only when the DA declares it safe.

The Bureau of Animal Industry issued a memorandum circular ordering, "No movement of live domestic and wild birds, including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen will be allowed from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao."

 

"We don't know how wide the spread has been," he said.

In his Facebook post, he said governors and mayors of provinces surrounding San Luis, Pampanga have also been asked to set up quarantine stations to regulate the entry of poultry and poultry products into their areas.

 

Piñol said while the ban "will surely adversely affect" the chicken supply, it was neccessary.

"A little discomfort, a few million in losses couldn't even be considered in the terms of the great threat the poultry industry would face if we lower our guard in this time of crisis," he said.

But at the same time he said he understood if people stopped consuming chicken because of the news.

"We still could not stop people from thinking that there could be danger in eating chicken," Piñol said.

He expressed confidence the issue was being managed well.

"We have long been prepared for this," he said.

According the Philippine Statistics Authority's Chicken Situation Report released in May 2017, the total production in 2016 is 1,674,505 metric tons, live weight.

Luzon was the country's biggest producer at 66.8%, followed by Mindanao (19.3%), and the Visayas (13.8%). Central Luzon's production at 35.3%, was greater  than the Visayas and Mindanao's combined.

Another round of tests in the works

Piñol on Sunday clarified the strain of the virus – Type A Sub-Type H5 – that killed 37,000 fowls is not transmissible to humans. 

However, another round of tests is underway – this time to see whether H5N6 is present, as it is the virus that could transfer from animals to human beings.

The DA has sought the help of a laboratory in Australia and Piñol said the results would be available "within the next 12 days."

In the meantime, Piñol announced: "An estimated 200,000 birds – chicken, ducks, quails, pigeons and fighting roosters - are now being culled and will be buried in the ground."

After the culling, the six farms where the outbreak occurred will be disinfected. After 21 days, sentinel birds will be let loose in these areas to see whether the virus would still be present.

"If the sentinel birds will not show signs of the disease, the Quarantine Restrictions will be lifted after 90 days," Piñol said.

Safety measures

The Department of Health (DOH) said properly cooked chickens and poultry products remain safe to eat.

 

READ: Pampanga under state of calamity due to bird flu outbreak

While the Agriculture Department is investigating the bird flu outbreak, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on Friday advised the public to take these safety precautions:

  • Cover the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing;
  • Wash hands often;
  • Take plenty of water and juices;
  • Have enough rest and sleep;
  • Do not go near wild birds or go to farms with fowls;

If you have flu symptoms that last longer than three days or if you feel very weak, see a doctor or go to nearest hospital for testing if it is bird flu.

Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag urged the public to report cases of sick or dead chickens to authorities right away.

Commenting on the situation, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said, "We are closely monitoring the situation," adding that any price changes in the market remain speculative.

RELATED: DOH on Pampanga outbreak: Immediately report cases of sick, dead chickens

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel, Eimor P. Santos, and VJ Bacungan, and stringer Justine Dizon contributed to this report.