DENR steps up measures against bird flu
Manila (26 November) -- Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has ordered all field officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to double their efforts in preventing the possible transmission of bird flu in the country.
The directive came in the wake of reports of a bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong, where the alert level for the disease has been raised to "serious," which means that there is a "high risk" of humans being infected with the potentially fatal disease.
"I have instructed all regional executive directors to conduct a closer monitoring and regular reporting of any incidence of bird flu in their areas of jurisdiction, and to coordinate closely with other government agencies and groups such as bird watching groups and livestock or poultry associations if necessary," Paje said.
In consonance with Paje's directive, DENR personnel assigned at entry points such as air and sea ports, together with their counterparts from the customs and law enforcement agencies, will be keeping a tight watch over pet and cage birds being transported.
"We will closely monitor the reported re-emergence of bird flu in Hongkong, and if warranted we will ban the importation of all exotic birds especially those coming from countries with reported incidences of the avian flu, and strengthen enforcement of laws on the illegal wildlife trade," said Paje.
The DENR, through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), will soon be conducting surveillance of migratory bird sites with assistance from bird watching clubs. The Philippines is an integral part of the East Asian Flyway, and its wetlands provide stopover sites for wild birds during their north-south migration.
Paje is also enjoining the public to support government efforts in preventing the transmission of avian flu. "We urge everyone to exercise extreme caution in handling fowl, as well as in cooking and eating poultry and poultry products so that we can maintain the country's clean slate with regard to human cases of the disease," he said.
Although the Philippines remains free from bird flu to date, the environment secretary is not taking any chances. "We have to strengthen our preparedness and reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread through increased information dissemination and improved warning systems," he said.
While the avian flu commonly infects birds, cases of bird-to-human transmission of the disease have already been reported. The greatest fear expressed by health authorities worldwide is for the disease to be transmitted to humans and mutate into a lethal form that could easily be transmitted among humans. (PIA-MMIO) [top]