The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday announced that the Philippines is already cleared from Avian Influenza (AI), the bird flu problem that had previously reemerged in the country.
Through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), DA stated that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has declared the country free from the last remaining strain of AI or the A(H5N6) virus on January 8.
DA-BAI Director Ronnie Domingo said that the bureau has not detected any further evidence of the presence AI A(H5N6) in areas of Pampanga and Rizal where the outbreak occurred.
“We have not detected any case of AI A(H5N6) among the poultry and other bird population 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,” said Domingo.
The department also noted that the country was able to resolve the outbreaks of AI A(H5N6) in a commercial layer poultry farm in Pampanga and backyard poultry farms in a village of Rizal, in less than a year after its reemergence in Philippines.
AI is an infectious disease of birds that most commonly infects poultry such as domestic chickens, turkeys, ducks, quails and geese as well as other types of wild birds, as explained by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In on July 10, 2020, the recurrence of A (H5N6) was confirmed by the DA-BAI Animal Disease Diagnosis and Reference Laboratory after the owner of the commercial layer farm notified the Pampanga Veterinary Office about the sudden drop in egg production, cyanosis (dark bluish or purplish coloration of the skin and mucous membrane in chicken), and mortalities.
Another case was detected in Rizal, which was reported by a farmer on August 26, 2020, to the Municipal Veterinary Office of Taytay.
The backyard farm had approximately 500 heads of free-range chicken and 300 heads of Muscovy ducks.
“Clinical signs — such as wry neck or torticollis, cyanosis of extremities — and death were observed since August 10, 2020.”
DA stated that sanitary control and containment operations to prevent further spread of the virus were carried out immediately in the affected areas.
The bureau appreciated the “rapid response and collaboration” of the Local Government Units (LGUs) of Pampanga and Rizal, DA Regional Field Offices III and IV-A; and expressed its gratitude to the affected farmers for their prompt reporting that led to the early containment of the disease; and even to the poultry stakeholders, and partners from the Department of Health for extending support to the prevention and control of AI.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar welcomed the development considering that poultry meat is a highly popular animal protein source among Filipinos.
“I congratulate the DA-BAI and the local governments of Pampanga and Rizal, whose swift action resulted in limiting the further spread of the AI A(H5N6) strain to other areas,” Dar said.
The Philippines also resolved the outbreak cases in years 2017 and 2018.
The DA-BAI, however, reminds poultry farmers and industry stakeholders to remain vigilant and report any unusual mortalities to their respective farm veterinarians or nearest government veterinary or agriculture offices.
Recently, Puerto Princesa City Veterinarian Dr. Indira Santiago also noted the effect of the Avian Influenza threat to the supply of chicken meat in Puerto Princesa.
Santiago said the restriction of shipments due to AI has contributed to the scarcity of chicken meat in the city along with other factors such as the delay of transferring day-old chickens to suppliers.