Jul 8, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The Philippines, previously free of the avian influenza that has spread rapidly across Asia, has reported its first cases.
Government announcements today say the H5 strain was identified in ducks on an isolated farm near the town of Calumpit in Bulacan province, north of Manila. The ducks showed no symptoms; the disease was detected during standard testing when a trader applied to export duck eggs.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said at a news conference that there is no evidence this involves the H5N1 strain that has caused more than 100 cases in humans and caused 54 human deaths so far in other parts of Asia. He is quoted in an Agence France-Presse story as saying, "It is a low-risk flu strain found in three healthy ducks and the risk to human health is almost nil."
Blood samples from the infected ducks have been sent to laboratories in Australia operated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Results are expected in a week, according to a joint statement from the Philippines' Department of Agriculture and Department of Health.
A 1-week ban on the sale and transport of poultry within a 3-km radius of the affected farm has been imposed by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), according to a story in the Manila Times. BAI Director Jose Molina indicated that surveillance has intensified and that birds at all farms in nearby areas are being tested.
Reuters news service reported that the Department of Agriculture said the affected flocks would be destroyed. Secretary Yap later added that this would be done only after the test results from Australia are avaialable.
The private sector in the Philippines has voluntarily suspended poultry shipments to Japan, says the Times article. Although poultry export is not a big industry in the Philippines, the country's shipments to Japan have soared recently because of the latter country's ban on poultry imports from Thailand after avian flu was discovered there.
The World Health Organization has been "unofficially" notified of the situation but has made no comment, according to Reuters news service.
The source of the avian flu remains to be determined, although the vast Candaba Swamp near the affected farm is visited by migratory birds from other parts of Asia.