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No confirmed human case of bird flu yet – DoH

By: Betheena Kae Unite

There is no confirmed human case yet due to Influenza A H5N6 as all 34 suspect cases, who showed flu-like symptoms tested negative, the Department of Health (DoH) said yesterday.  

“As of August 24, 2017, there has been no confirmed human case due to Influenza A H5N6 in the country since the DA’s (Department of Agriculture) announcement of the bird flu outbreaks in early August,” Health Secretary Jean Ubial said during a press conference Friday.

Ubial said the DoH was able to identify 34 suspect cases – 30 from Pampanga and four from Nueva Ecija. 

“They were promptly placed in isolation as part of the precautionary measures to avert any possible human-to-human transmission of infection,” Ubial said.

The 34 suspect cases, according to Ubial was part of the 258 persons involved in culling birds in Pampanga.

Ubial said 32 percent of them were farmers while 68 percent were men from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

She added that 21 farms in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga were involved in the operations that concluded Friday. 

Earlier the DA confirmed that the avian influenza strain that hit San Luis, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija was the Influenza Type A sub-type H5N6. The DA also said that H5N6 is a strain transmissible to humans. However, transmissible rate is “very very low.”

Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) Director Socorro Lupisan reiterated that H5N6 has extremely low human-to-human transmission rate but it has a high mortality rate.

“Only 30 to 50 percent of those infected can survive and then the rest, mamamatay rin (will die),” Lupisan said. “But transmission from human to human is very rare,” Lupisan added. 

Ubial, on the other hand, said that there is no statement that proves that H5N6 is more transmissible. She said the country is now more ready to prevent these kinds of virus.

In Region 3, the DoH has designated the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Medical Center in San Fernando, Pampanga and the Paulino Garcia Memorial and Research Medical Center in Cabanatuan as referral hospitals for assessment of suspect cases and collection of specimen for laboratory diagnosis. 

Ubial said unlike in 2005, where the last outbreak of the virus happened, hospitals that were utilized for assessment were only in Manila. 

“Our national reference laboratory, RITM is prepared to receive samples for detection. While our designated referral hospitals – San Lazaro, RITM, and Lung Center – are on heightened alert status with trained medical and para-medical teams who are ready to attend to bird flu cases should they be referred to these health facilities,” Ubial said.