In August of this year, for the first time ever, the Philippines reported outbreaks of avian flu in poultry. Roughly 300,000 birds were culled in San Luis, Pampanga and in San Isidro and Jaen towns in Nueva Ecija (see Philippines MOA: Avian Flu Identified As H5N6).
Since then, we've heard nothing official, but there have been persistent rumors in the press over the past week or so of a major culling operation last month in Nueva Ecija.Today the mystery is (at least partially) revealed with a post by Secretary of Agriculture Manny Piñol on his Facebook page that announces the successful containment of a `bird flu' outbreak (subtype not disclosed) which began in early November.
Quick action, cooperation
LGU OFFICIALS, BAI CONTAIN BIRD FLU CASE IN NUEVA ECIJA
By Manny Piñol
In an inspiring story of the beauty of the Filipino Bayanihan Spirit, local officials of the Province of Nueva Ecija and workers of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) successfully contained an Avian Influenza case which was reported in a egg layer farm in Cabiao town two weeks ago.
The new AI case which was reported Nov. 12 was immediately acted upon by Cabiao officials led by Mayor Ramil Rivera who directed veterinary officials to submit specimens to the Regional Animal Disease Detection Laboratory.
When the tests turned out positive, he ordered the immediate culling of 42,000 heads of egg layers completing the task on Nov. 22.
Yesterday, i flew by helicopter to Nueva Ecija to meet with Mayor Rivera and local veterinary officials.
Also present during the meeting were Cong. Cecil Chavez of Butil Partylist, and BAI OIC Director Ronnie Domingo.
Following the recently approved modified protocol in handling Bird Flu cases, there will be no more 1 kilometer radius as containment zone where all fowls will be culled and no 7-km. Radius as controlled zone where movement of fowls will not be allowed.
Egg layer farms whose fowls will be culled will be compensated using the formula applied in the previous cases.
Displaced farm workers will also be assisted.
Under the new internationally set protocols, only fowls in the affected farm will be culled while those in the surrounding areas will be monitored and subjected to random tests.
These new protocols were approved during a stakeholders consultative forum called by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries.
Also approved during the PCAF forum was the guideline that only the Agriculturr Secretary is the authorized official to issue statements on the Bird Flu isdue to prevent confusion and panic which could adversely affect the industry.
There is no 100% that there will be no more Bird Flu Cases in the future but unlike before, the DA and the sector are more prepared to handle the crisis.
Although not directly addressed in his Facebook post, a GMA News report (see Piñol says bird flu in Nueva Ecija farm contained) contains Piñol 's explanation for why this outbreak was not announced sooner.
The Agriculture chief earlier said that the case was not immediately made public to avoid raising an alarm similar to what happened when a bird flu outbreak was declared last August in one of Cabiao's neighboring towns, San Isidro, where some 300,000 birds were culled then and the area was placed under quarantine.Also mentioned in his Facebook post, the DA has decided to loosen the culling and quarantine zone requirements for farms within 7 km of an outbreak. These changes were alluded to last week in an MOA report DA reviews protocols on Avian Influenza, which described the August outbreak and stated:
During the outbreak, the department strictly implemented culling of birds within the one kilometer radius and issued a temporary ban on the movement of live domestic and wild birds and their products, including poultry meat, day-old chick, eggs, semen and manure within the 7 km radius control area of Pampanga to parts of Visayas and Mindanao.While these changes are designed to reduce the economic impact of outbreaks to nearby farmers, and are therefore likely to be politically popular, they are not without a degree of risk.
“We will make more adaptable policies for the sector is not too hurt"
Something to watch as the winter bird flu season progresses.Given the close proximity to last August's outbreaks the likely culprit of this latest outbreak is H5N6, although we'll probably have to wait for an OIE notification before we know for sure.