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40,000 birds culled as bird flu hits Pampanga

By FRANCO G. REGALA

SAN LUIS, Pampanga – Close to 40,000 poultry heads, including quails and ducks, were slaughtered in a farm here where authorities have confirmed the presence of a highly infectious strain of bird flu.

The outbreak, the country’s first case of the dreaded virus, was discovered in a farm in Barangay San Agustin in this highly agricultural town, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said yesterday.

Citing initial reports, Piñol said that the first outbreak of the subtype H5 virus began in a quail farm, “killing 50 of 70 ducks, wiping out all the quails, and spreading in the poultry farms.”

A total of 37,000 poultry heads were killed as a result of the outbreak.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda has placed her province under a state of calamity as a result of the outbreak.
“There were said to be indications as early as May but the commercial poultry operators did not report it immediately. Then the situation worsened around July,” Piñol said.

To further avoid the spread of virus among poultry, Piñol said he also ordered the culling of the other 400,000 captive birds within the municipality, worth some P28 million.

The DA Secretary also said he ordered the immediate deployment of quarantine officers within a one-kilometer radius of the affected poultry farm, and assured to kill more, including free range and stray fowls, to protect the whole poultry industry.

Piñol said they are still trying to figure out where the virus came although he noted that the possible carriers could be the migratory birds and the smuggling of Peking duck from China that were possibly coursed through the Subic Bay Freeport.

To minimize transfer of the dreaded poultry virus outside the affected area, the DA banned the shipment of fowls from Luzon to the other parts of the country.

DA Region 3 Executive Director Dr. Andrew B. Villacorta, meanwhile, said that agencies concerned are presently discussing possible action should the situation worsened and affect the whole poultry industry.

Last year, 52,000 heads of 45 days (broiler chicken), 140, 801 game fowls (fighting cocks), and another 140,000 native or free range chickens were also slaughtered in 82 towns in seven Central Luzon provinces, which include Pampanga, after they were hit by another highly contagious virus – the Newcastle Disease Virus.

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