S. Cotabato bans entry of fowls, wild birds in campaign vs avian influenza

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 16 March) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has temporarily banned the entry and movement in the province of backyard fowls and wild birds, including their products and by-products, for at least 30 days in the wake of the detection of Avian Influenza (AI) or bird flu cases in nearby Sultan Kudarat.

The measure, contained in Executive Order (EO) No. 14 signed Monday by Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., was aimed to protect residents and the province’s thriving poultry industry against the spread of the viral disease.

Dr. Byron dela Cruz, animal health and regulatory division chief of the Provincial Veterinary Office, said Wednesday the move is in line with the ongoing heightened surveillance in the province’s borders with Sultan Kudarat and other vulnerable areas.

He specifically cited 10 barangays in Tantangan and Norala towns that are adjacent to Tacurong City, where confirmed AI cases were recently reported.

In Norala, he said Barangays Dumaguil and Matapol were included in the seven-kilometer radius AI Protection Plan (AIPP) zoning due to a confirmed case in Barangay Baras, Tacurong.

Barangays Magon and Mangilala in Tantangan were also covered by the AIPP zoning in connection with the confirmed AI case in Barangay Kalandagan, Tacurong.

The AI cases were reported by the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory based in General Santos City in an emergency meeting last March 4, he said.

Dela Cruz said they decided to expand the surveillance, which started on March 8, to barangays Tinago, Kibid and Liberty in Norala and Dumadalig, New Cuyapo and Poblacion in Tantangan as preemptive measure.

He said they already submitted the collected samples gathered from domesticated or backyard fowls in Tantangan for laboratory testing while the collection activities are ongoing in Norala.

“As of now, the province is still considered as AI-free and we have intensified our preemptive surveillance to contain its possible spread to our area,” Dela Cruz said in a press briefing.

AI is a disease caused by the H5N1 influenza virus that usually infects domestic poultry, and other birds and animal species. The virus, especially the type A H5N1, can also infect humans and pigs.

Under EO 14, the local government specifically banned the movement within the province of ducks, quails, domestic fowls, gamefowl, including their products and by-products such as meat, egg and manure.

The entry of all domesticated fowls and wild birds from outside the province is also prohibited to prevent the further spread of the disease.

Commercial poultry farms situated within and outside the surveillance zones may still transport layer and broiler chickens but should be accompanied by negative AI test results and complete permits.

Dela Cruz said the preemptive surveillance is focused on the transient Muscovy ducks (itik) as they are considered as “AI reservoirs.”

“They can be infected but don’t show any symptom or die, and can become a source of infection,” he said.

He said native chickens, gamefowl, goose and turkeys are deemed most susceptible to the disease if infected by the transient ducks.

Dela Cruz added that a confirmed case of AI is already considered an outbreak but no official declaration has been made yet in Tacurong City as it can only be made by the DA Secretary. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)