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DA lists areas where bird flu may enter RP

MANILA, Philippines -- Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap has appealed to local government units and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to keep a tight watch on migratory birds during the months of October to December.

To keep the Philippines one of the only three countries in Southeast Asia still free of the dreaded avian influenza, Yap also urged the public to help protect the P150-billion poultry sector, which employs over 150,000 Filipinos.

Bird flu, or avian influenza, is an infectious disease caused by the H5N1 virus.

All birds are believed to be susceptible to the virus, although some species are reported to be more resistant to infection than others. Some forms of bird flu may be transferred to humans.

According to Yap, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has intensified its information campaign in 20 areas at risk of bird flu infection as well as around the country’s coastline and areas with high concentrations of ducks.

The migratory birds are expected from Indonesia, Taiwan and China.

The critical areas are Lake Mainit in Agusan del Norte; Agusan del Sur; Aparri, Cagayan; Olango Island, Cebu; Ligwasan Marsh, Kabacan, Cotabato; General Santos City; Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte; Magat Dam, Isabela; Naujan Lake, Mindoro; Himamaylan, Negros Occidental; Quezon, Palawan; Candaba swamp, Pampanga; Roxas and Capiz on Panay Island; Sibugay province; Surigao del Norte; Bulan and Matnog, Sorsogon; Surigao del Sur; Zamboanga City; Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur.

Duck farmers have been advised not to graze their flocks near the critical areas to avoid contact with migratory birds.

The DA has also set up task forces at the municipal level to deal with any outbreak.

“If anyone spots a sickly-looking bird in their area, they should immediately report it to the nearest BAI office,” Yap said.

Avian influenza diagnostic laboratories were set up early this year to pinpoint outbreaks and carry out the appropriate measures.

The BAI is also conducting table-top exercises as well as preparedness and response planning workshops.

A BAI team of veterinarians is carrying out a nationwide educational campaign for poultry and livestock growers on the threat and perils of bird flu.

In the event of a suspected outbreak, local task forces have organized rapid action teams that could be deployed within 24 hours.

As of July 11, the World Health Organization reported that 192 of 318 people infected with the AI virus have died since a strain resurfaced in Southeast Asia in 2003.



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