Palace asks for calm amid bird flu crisis
Malacañang on Saturday asked for calm after it declared the first-ever outbreak of the H5 strain of bird flu virus in the country, saying that they are closely monitoring the situation to avoid its further spread.
“We ask our people to remain calm yet vigilant,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Pampanga following the confirmation of avian flu outbreak yesterday by the Department of Agriculture [DA]. As of this time, there has been no report of bird-to-human contamination.”
With the avian flu being transferred via respiratory routes, “properly cooked chicken meat and eggs remain safe to eat,” Abella said.
The Palace spokesperson urged the public to report to authorities those who will exhibit flu-like conditions.
“Any person living or residing in affected areas or who had been exposed to dead chickens who becomes sick with flu or flu-like illness, such as fever and/or sore throat/cough should immediately report to their local health center or nearest hospital for laboratory test,” he said.
He added that concerned government agencies are working to prevent any further outbreak.
“The Department of Health [DOH] is assisting the DA for avian flu investigation and containment activities, which include flu vaccinations and protective equipment for poultry handlers and responders. Heightened surveillance for flu-like syndromes is now instituted in Pampanga within 7km radius of the affected farms,” he added.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Friday said that they have ordered for an immediate cull for all chicken, ducks and quail within a kilometer (0.6 miles) of the infected poultry in San Luis, Pampanga after the outbreak, the first after 7 to 8 years, was reported to the Department only last Thursday.
Piñol said the infected birds tested positive for avian influenza Type A, sub-type H5 while the avian flu strains that have been known to jump to humans are the H5N1 and H5N7 subtypes.
The World Health Organization has monitored 453 human deaths from 859 cases of avian influenza since 2000, with Asia accounting for 41 percent of all cases.
Meanwhile, an opposition senator said that the government should come up with a comprehensive plan to control the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, whose family traces its roots to Pampanga, emphasized the importance of preventing the virus from taking people's lives and livelihood.
"We urge a concerted effort from all concerned government departments and agencies to address the matter at all fronts and protect the vulnerable sectors against the impact of the virus," he said.
"We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to gather all agencies and come up with a comprehensive plan of action to put in place necessary measures in dealing with the avian flu. Of utmost importance is to control the spread of the virus and to prevent it from taking people’s lives and more livelihood," he added.
Pangilinan also urged the Agriculature and Health departments to conduct a massive information campaign to educate the public about the virus, its dangers, and on ways to avoid it.
"The information drive should include the protocols to be followed to prevent the further spread of the virus. Since the virus is known to infect humans as well, people, especially those who handle fowls, should know how to protect themselves," he said.
He also asked the Department of Trade and Industry to "watch out for profiteers who might take advantage of the situation and increase the prices of raw chicken meat and processed food in the market."
The senator also pushed for funding and other assistance to those battling the virus.
"We laud the commitment of the national government to compensate poultry farmers for every culled bird. But more than this, we push for greater government support for the micro and small businesses and the industry in general through funding and other assistance as they battle the virus and recover from their losses," he said.
"We must act as one to ensure that we are spared from its devastating consequences," he added.
The provincial government of Pampanga has declared a state of calamity due to the outbreak.