The highly-pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza or bird flu has reemerged in the Philippines more than two years after a similar strain affected poultry in the country, Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced on Monday.
He said bird flu was detected in a quail farm in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. Testing for avian influenza was done on March 13 after 1,500 out of 15,000 quails died in a farm in Barangay Ulanin-Pitak, he said, adding that samples from 30 live quails from the said farm tested positive for the disease.
Dar said a total of 12,000 quails from the said farm were “surgically stomped out” and buried on March 14.
He explained they are implementing the “1:7 protocol” to control and contain the spread of the bird flu. This means only quails from the infected farm will be culled, while its one-kilometer radius will be considered the control or quarantine zone. Seven kilometers beyond that will be a surveillance zone.
“That farm will be the only one that will be ‘surgically stomped out.’ Hindi na ang population ng quail within the 1km radius,” he said in a media briefing.
Human transmission possible
Dar said infected quails may pass on the disease to humans through secretions. He added there has been no record of human transmission of bird flu in the Philippines when the same strain affected Pampanga and Nueva Ecija in 2017.
“The avian influenza is a disease of poultry that can affect humans. However, the H5N6 HPAI (highly-pathogenic avian influenza) which affected the Philippines has not affected humans in the country,” he said.
Dar said the Agriculture Department’s quick response fund will be used to combat the spread of the bird flu.
The World Health Organization said it has not received reports of new cases of human infection with H5N6 between January 31 and February 6, 2020. In a February 7 update, WHO said a total of 24 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with H5N6, including seven deaths, have been reported from China since 2014.
“Whenever avian influenza viruses are circulating in poulty, there is a risk for sporadic infection and small clusters of human cases due to exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments,” the WHO report added.