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PIA Press Release

Cordillera task force replans for avian influenza preparedness

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (22 September) -- In line with efforts to keep the Philippines avian-influenza free, health officers and veterinarians from Baguio City and identified priority areas in the Cordillera conducted a regional re-planning workshop on preparedness, response and contingency here last week.

Even as the Philippines remains free from Avian influenza(AI), the exercise was deemed necessary in the wake of a looming threat with majority of the countries in South East Asia affected by bird flu.

Latest statistics show that the country along with Brunei and Singapore are the only nations in Asia free from AI, which first resurfaced in South Korea in 2003 then quickly spread across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Assistant Regional Director Pedro Jerry Baliang of the Department of Agriculture emphasized that planning and preparedness are essential because we do not have the resources to fight avian flu when it affects the country.

According to Dr. Cherry Pekas of the Department of Health, highly pathogenic avian influenza can create enormous impact on the poultry industry and can affect human health. H5N1,she said, is the most dangerous stain of influenza A virus that has crossed barriers to infect humans.

A person infected with AI needs at least P65,000 for anti-viral agents and vaccines, Pekas said.

According to studies, most cases of H5N1 influenza have resulted from contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with secretions /excretions from infected birds. Studies also show that migratory birds is one of the pathways and source of AI virus.

As of July 2007, a total of 319 cases with 192 death are confirmed human cases of AI reported to the World Health Organization.

Fortunately, the Philippines has been successful in preventing the incursion of the disease that has affected millions of chickens and other poultry worldwide due to its intensive control and prevention measures as specified in the Avian Influenza Protection Program(AIPP).

But let us not be complacent for it can happen more so that we are surrounded by countries affected with AI, and a pathway of migratory birds, Dr. Jerry Sabado of the DA-CAR said.

Among the identified priority areas in the Cordillera which are being monitored and under surveillance are Mankayan, Buguias, and Itogon, Benguet; Alfonso Lista and Hungduan in Ifugao; Sagada, Barlig and Natonin in Mt. Province; Calanasan in Apayao; Tabuk and Rizal in Kalinga and the Baguio market.

The areas were chosen based on the presence of transient migratory birds and where "ikik" or bird trapping is being practiced, and Baguio for its market chain where chicken, ducks and other birds are sold.

Based on the summary database of AI prevention program implemented in CAR from October to December 2006, the Magat Dam registered the highest bird count per census counting while ikik trapping were monitored in Mt. Ampacao in Sagada, Mt. Prov, Mt. Polis in Banaue, Ifugao and Sinipsip and Bot-oan in Buguias, Benguet.

Experts say it is critically important that migratory birds are prevented from commingling with locally raised fowls. AI can be transmitted bird to bird thru direct contact with discharges from infected birds, especially feces and respiratory secretions and contaminated feeds, water, equipment and clothing.

According to Sabado, aside from surveillance and monitoring, the CAR Regional Bird Flu Task Force had implemented the following preventive measures to help keep the country away from AI; conducted blood sampling from chicken in the priority areas which all yielded negative result for AI, assisted LGUs in drafting their preparedness and response plans, IEC campaign and coordination with the LGus for the drafting of ordinances. The task forces in the provincial and municipal level have also been doing IEC.

On the national scale, the NAITF adopted ban on importation from AI-affected countries, enforced the wildlife Act, upgrading of AI diagnostic capability, IEC campaign, implementation of bio-security measures and surveillance and prevention in airports and seaports, among others. (PIA-CAR) [top]

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