The Agriculture Department on Saturday said that over 500,000 birds have been culled in San Luis, Pampanga and its periphery to prevent the further spread of the avian influenza virus as the Palace called on the public to refrain from spreading “fake news” which may cause distress and panic.
“Agriculture Regional Director Roy Abaya reported early today that a total of 214, 506 birds [chicken, ducks, quails] involving 29 farms inside the 7-kilometer controlled radius whose owners volunteered to support the clean-up were culled,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a Facebook post.
“The last remaining farm inside the 1-kilometer contained radius is expected to be cleared today by volunteers, mostly members of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. An estimated 500,000 fowls within the 7-km. and 1-km. radius would be culled by the end of the day today,” he added.
After the culling operations are completed—bio-security teams will be disinfecting the farms and wait out for another 21 days before the next step of fielding “sentinel birds” in the area will be undertaken, Piñol said.
The agriculture chief said that once the “sentinel birds” did not show any symptoms of the AI virus, the Bureau of Animal Industry will declare San Luis and the periphery as free of the bird flu virus.
“If there are no other reported cases of bird flu outbreak 21 days after the completion of the clean-up and disinfection operations in Jaen and San Isidro, the Agriculture Department will lift the ban on the shipment of poultry and poultry products to other parts of the country,” he said.
“I am hoping and praying that Jaen and San Isidro would be the last of our AI problems,” he added.
However, farmers in the 1-km controlled radius will not be allowed to raise chickens, ducks or quails and other feathered fowls for another 90 days.
On Friday, Piñol confirmed that the outbreak has reached the towns of Jaen and San Isidro in Nueva Ecjia, which had the same strain in the previous case in San Luis.
The Palace, meanwhile, said that it is keeping a close watch on the developments in Nueva Ecija following reports of poultry deaths.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Nueva Ecija following the confirmation of poultry deaths in the province yesterday by the Department of Agriculture [DA]. We ask our people to remain calm yet vigilant and to refrain from spreading unverified information that may cause undue alarm and panic,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement read over Radyo Pilipinas.
Abella added that concerned government officials have been quick in their response in avian flu investigation and containment activities and have established heightened surveillance and community action teams for detection of other fowl deaths and possible flu cases in humans.
He added that the government has also put up advance command posts in San Nicolas, Pampanga and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija with the capacity to respond 24/7.
According to Abella, health officers have trained AFP personnel and have provided Personal Protective Equipment and Prophylaxis Meds (Tamiflu) good for 10 days for soldiers who would do the culling.
The Palace official reiterated that bird flu is transferred via respiratory routes and that properly cooked chicken meat and eggs remain safe to eat.
“As of this time, there has been no report of bird-to-human contamination in the Philippines,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pampanga farmers whose chicken, ducks and quails were culled as part of the effort to contain the spread of the avian influenza virus in San Luis town will get paid starting Aug. 22, Pinol said.
Following a clearance from the Department of Budget and Management, P31 million in calamity funds will be released, estimated to cover 300,000 birds affected by the disease.
“The amount will be the first in a series of releases to be made by government through the Agriculture Department to cover the losses of the farmers,” he said.
“I will personally go to San Luis on Tuesday to hand the first checks to farmers as a proof of President Rody Duterte’s commitment to help poultry, duck and quail raisers recover from the calamity,” he added.
In addition to the compensation for the birds which were culled, the Department of Agriculture is also preparing grants and loans through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council for farm workers who will be jobless because of the closure of the farms.
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