DA 11 prepares for arrival of migratory birds from bird flu-stricken countries

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Aug) – The Department of Agriculture in Region 11 (DA 11) said it has prepared for the possible entry of migratory birds from avian flu-stricken countries that will seek refuge in five areas in the Davao Region during winter, starting next month until April next year.

Dr. Dannie Apelo, spokesperson of the inter-agency Avian Influenza Protection Program Task Force Probinsya in Region 11, in a business forum at SM City Davao Tuesday (15 August 2017), says authorities in the Davao Region are prepared against avian flu should migratory birds start coming soon as winter approaches in colder countries. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

The DA has already activated the Avian Influenza Protection Program Task Force Probinsya, an interagency group concerned on the surveillance and monitoring of the birds and poultry farms in the region, according to Dr. Dannie Apelo, the spokesperson. The group is composed of representatives from the DA, Department of Health, Philippine National Police, and local government units.

He said the surveillance group will collect blood samples and pharyngeal swabs when these birds would start flocking in five identified areas across three out of five provinces and one city in the region – Banay-Banay and Lupon in Davao Oriental, Malalag in Davao del Sur, and Carmen and Braulio E. Dujali in Davao del Norte.

Apelo said they would collect a total of 900 samples from five barangays of each five municipalities as the birds fly in and another samples as they fly out of these areas in April next year.

The samples will be immediately taken for testing to the Davao Regional Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. Sampling will start on September 25, 2017.

If results would turn out positive, he said all chickens within one-kilometer radius will be exterminated.

Apelo said the migratory birds would normally seek refuge in a tropical country like the Philippines during winter months from their countries of origin like China and other regions in the world hit by avian flu.

He said they need to do the sampling to immediately prevent the spread of the infection to the domestic birds such as chicken, fighting cock, quails, and ducks should tests on fly-in birds turn out positive.

The DA imposed a temporary ban on the movement of live domestic and wild birds and their products, including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, semen, manure from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao.

In a memorandum circular dated August 14, the DA said it was aimed to prevent further spread of the disease in other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The memo said since Visayas and Mindanao remain free from avian influenza, the movement of live poultry, poultry meat, day old chicks, eggs, semen and other products from Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon will be allowed.

For areas within Luzon, transport may be allowed but it shall be accompanied by a shipping permit and a veterinary health certificate issued by a government sector veterinarian certifying that these products were sourced from farms with no incidence of avian influenza for the past 21 days prior to shipment.

For poultry meat, it said the temporary ban will be lifted when there are no new cases reported 90 days after stamping out activity, including disinfection of all affected areas and surveillance.

Apelo called on the public and the poultry farms to immediately report birds showing symptoms of infection from the H5 strain of avian influenza.

Symptoms include severe depression and inappetence, drastic decline in egg production, swollen and bluish combs and wattles, dehydration, severe congestion of musculature, severe congestion of conjunctiva, excessive mucous exudate in tracheal lumen, severe hemorrhagic tracheitis, severe kidney congestion, urate deposits in renal tubules, hemorrhage and degeneration of the ovary, and hemorrhage and erosion of the gizzard lining.

Modes of transmission include direct contact with infected bird’s feces or secretions, contaminated feed, water, equipment and clothing, and contaminated eggs may infect chicks in the incubator.

Apelo said the H5 strain of this virus that was discovered in a poultry farm in San Luis, Pampanga may not infect humans.

However, he said the virus may mutate and become pathogens that can infect the humans.

He said the H7 and H9 are the deadly strains that could infect humans, but infected birds are hard to detect because they do not show the symptoms.

In a statement, the DOH will coordinate efforts with DA, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent human cases.

It said that the DOH has supply of anti-flu medication and commodities whenever regional health offices and hospitals will require these.

The agency added it is now closely monitoring the events surrounding an avian flu outbreak in poultry in Pampanga.

It said it has “stepped-up the human flu like-illness surveillance since the reported human influenza outbreaks in Hong Kong and India few months back and will now look for human cases who may have been exposed to avian flu strain in affected areas.”

The DOH added that any person who becomes sick with fever and/or sore throat/cough and had exposure to these dead chickens should report to the local health center or nearest hospital for laboratory confirmation.

A team of DOH epidemiologists has been dispatched to assist the DA in the outbreak investigation, and hospitals are being alerted in affected areas to report similar cases. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)