The Department of Agriculture has raised alarm over another possible pandemic of a new flu strain similar to the 2009 swine flu.
Dr. Ronnie Domingo, the department’s Bureau of Animal Industry officer in charge, said the country, through an inter-agency committee on zoonoses, was preparing action plans to fight the new swine flu named G4.
According to experts from Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, G4 is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009, and that it has “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans.”
“This influenza virus is known for being fickle. Its makeup changes. It (virus) mutates. That’s why we are monitoring it,” Domingo said.
“This could be the virus they saw in China that mutates, spreads quickly and causes a disease,” he added.
Earlier, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Noel Reyes called on the country’s hog raisers to report unusual hog deaths amid China’s reports of a new flu strain similar to the 2009 swine flu.
“The Department of Agriculture through the BAI reminds the general public to report any unusual pig mortalities in your farm,” he told a previous virtual press briefing.
Reyes advised hog raisers to coordinate with their municipal veterinarians should their pigs manifest any flu-like symptoms.
Reports from scientists in China believed the new strain of virus could mutate further and potentially cause human-to-human transmission amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Meanwhile, Senator Francisco Pangilinan said the government should exercise extreme precaution over the reports on the new swine flu.
“Like many others, we were alarmed by the news that there was a newly-discovered kind of swine flu in China which has the potential of becoming a pandemic,” said Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture.
This early, he said the government should already prepare regarding the possibility this might spread.
Due to this, he called for the setting up of a Philippine version of the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pangilinan cited the need to boost our disaster and pandemic response, adding: “Our government was delayed and caught by surprise for several weeks before the COVID local transmission.”
He noted that the government had not prepared for it and even wasted time.
The senator said: “This should not be repeated. We should be prepared. We should be ready, We should act fast. There should be decisive and clear plans which are science-based, which were thoroughly studied by experts.”
Though it is yet to be proven if G4 can be passed from humans to humans, tests show that as many as 4.4 percent of the population in China appeared to also have been exposed.
The senator also cautioned about the potential effects this might bring to the poultry industry.
“We should also be prepared to support the poultry industry if it (should) spread and hit our livelihood,” said the senator.
Like the past swine flu, he said “we need to cull thousands of pigs and ban pork from various areas.”
The Philippines has been battling the most recent African Swine Fever, where as much as 69 outbreaks were observed in March of this year.
Over 250,000 pigs have been culled locally since the outbreak was declared in August 2019.