SouthCot worried over bird flu

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 September) – Veterinary personnel in South Cotabato province have intensified their monitoring against the possible entry of H5N1 Avian Influenza or bird flu virus in the province following the resurgence of the deadly disease in several parts of Southeast Asia.

Dr. Raul Teves, Veterinarian IV of the South Cotabato Provincial Veterinary Office, said they have launched a series of random tests on chickens, ducks and other poultry species in several parts of the province for possible infection of the H5N1 Avian Influenza virus.

He said they were specifically testing six blood samples every week of various poultry animals from selected areas of the province.

“This is a precautionary measure since the province is adjacent to the areas that are considered as highly vulnerable for the possible entry of bird flu,” he said in a radio interview.

Teves said Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao’s Avian Influenza Task Force had identified the coastal areas of nearby Sarangani province and several wetlands in the region that have been drawing migratory birds from the neighboring countries as possible entry points of the disease.

He said the task force is mainly concerned with the possible entry of infected birds and poultry species from Indonesia through Sarangani’s coastal areas.

The national government earlier activated task forces against bird flu from the national down to the municipal levels to prevent its entry into the country, which has remained free of the disease.

As part of such mandate, Teves said they have linked up with local government units of the province’s 10 municipalities and lone city to assist their monitoring activities.

Avian Influenza, which has already affected 10 countries in Asia, mainly infects poultry species and has already resulted in mass deaths and destruction of chickens and other poultry such as ducks, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted.

But it said the infected poultry can transmit the virus to humans and lead to severe disease that may result to death.

As of August 9, the WHO already recorded five confirmed deaths due to bird flu in Indonesia out of the seven positive cases that were reported in the area this year. Seven bird flu deaths were also recorded this year in Cambodia.

Teves said the task force has been also monitoring the migratory birds that have been flocking to a bird sanctuary in Barangay Baras in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat.

The city government of Tacurong, which has been developing the bird sanctuary as a tourist destination, reported that around 7,700 migratory birds, mostly herons, have been flocking to the area every year.

For their part, Teves said they have doubled their watch on palay farms near Tacurong City that are frequented by mobile duck growers.

He said local duck growers usually lease palay farms in some parts of the province for several weeks after the harvest season, which start every late August.

Owing to this, Teves said they have scheduled the random tests for bird flu this month in palay-producing areas in Tantangan and Norala towns as well as in Koronadal City. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)