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April 26, 2018


Philippines hopes to regain bird flu-free status by July



The Philippines plans to declare itself free of bird flu by July, almost a year after it was hit by the H5 strain of the avian flu virus.


The Southeast Asian country first expressed confidence that it would regain its bird flu-free status by December last year, but the countdown to the coveted status was reset with the discovery of avian influenza (AI) in a layer farm in Cabiao town in Nueva Ecija last November, according to a report by BusinessMirror.


Since then, the country has not reported any incidence of a bird-flu outbreak.


The Philippines was hit by an AI outbreak in August, its first in 10 years. Affected were the major egg-producing provinces of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija on Luzon island.


Under the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a country can be declared free from AI if it would not report any outbreak within 90 days after the final disinfection of the affected areas.


Thus, the Philippines, under the OIE guidelines, could by now be recognised as a bird flu-free nation.


According to Arlene Vytiaco, chief of the animal health and welfare division (AHWD) of the Bureau of Animal Industry, the 90th day following the last cleaning and disinfection of the bird flu-affected poultry farm in Cabiao should have fallen on March 23.


Additional eradication measures


The BAI-AHWD has, however, decided not to notify yet the OIE for its bird flu-free status recognition as it opted to implement additional measures to ensure total eradication of the virus.


"We are extending the observation period until the end of June, since we have to continue monitoring for any spillover cases and due to influx of migratory birds," Vytiaco told BusinessMirror.


"At this point in time, we cannot yet claim with confidence that we are AI-free until we are done with the series of surveillance activities," she added.


The BAI said in its official report to the OIE last December that 42,000 birds were affected by the bird flu that struck Nueva Ecija. Of the total number, 27,675 instantly died from the virus, while the remaining 14,325 were culled.


When the virus first struck Pampanga province, the agriculture department was reported to have ordered the culling of around 200,000 birds in the affected areas.


BAI is now undertaking the third round of surveillance in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, which is expected to run through June 30.


If there is no new case of bird flu after the BAI's extended surveillance, the agency said it will recommend the declaration of the country as bird flu-free to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol by July.


As a result of the bird flu outbreak in August, several countries have banned the country's poultry exports, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  —Rick Alberto

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