PH declared bird flu-free

The government announced on Tuesday that the Philippines was now free of the H5N6 strain of the avian influenza that struck a few poultry farms less than a year ago.

A vendor stands over rows of the slaughtered chickens for sale at her stall inside the Mutya ng Pasig Public Market in Pasig City on Jan. 19, 2020, when the Department of Agriculture announced that the Philippines is free of the bird flu that struck poultry farms in Luzon in mid-2020. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) cited a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) declaration in saying the last remnants of the highly pathogenic strain no longer exist as of January 8 after outbreaks in commercial poultry farms in two provinces in Luzon had been resolved.

This came after the BAI reported to the OIE that evidence of the strain were no longer spotted during its three-month monitoring and surveillance of the affected farms.

“We had not detected any case of [the] AI A(H5N6) among the poultry and other bird populations in the last 90 days after the completion of cleaning and disinfection in the affected farms, surveillance and monitoring; and completion of the 35-day restocking period with sentinel animals in Pampanga and Rizal,” BAI Director Ronnie Domingo said.

The bureau confirmed the presence of H5N6 on July 10, 2020 after a commercial layer poultry farm owner in Pampanga reported a sudden drop in egg production, cyanosis and deaths among his chickens.

More than a month later, a farmer in Taytay town, Rizal province, reported torticollis, cyanosis and deaths at his backyard farm, which housed approximately 500 free-range chickens and 300 Muscovy ducks.

The BAI lauded the farmers for their prompt reporting, which led to the flu’s early containment; poultry stakeholders; and partners from the Department of Health for extending support.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar welcomed the declaration, and praised the bureau and the local governments of the two provinces for their “swift action” in limiting the spread of the strain.

Meanwhile, the BAI reminded poultry farmers and industry stakeholders to remain vigilant and report any unusual deaths in their farms to their respective farm veterinarians or nearest state veterinary or agriculture office.

Before this year, the Philippines resolved bird-flu outbreaks in 2017 and 2018.

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