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DENR warns migratory birds may worsen avian flu outbreak


Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) urged the public yesterday to be on full alert for approaching migratory birds that could worsen the bird flu outbreak currently confined in a town in Pampanga.

DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Theresa Mundita Lim said “close contact” with the wild birds will risk transmission of avian influenza virus.

birds flying with the sunset as background (photo by Pixabay) Manila Bulletin

birds flying with the sunset as background (photo by Pixabay) Manila Bulletin

“The annual bird migration season in the Philippines is expected to start around September (southward migration) and return to their breeding grounds by March in the following year (northward migration),” Lim said.

These birds stop briefly along wetlands – swamps, marshes, intertidal and coastal areas, rivers, ponds, lakes, as well as forests throughout the country, to rest and refuel for their onward journey.

“We discourage the killing or poaching of the birds because this could just worsen the situation,” Lim pointed out.

Hunting of wildlife including birds is illegal and is punishable under the provisions of the Republic Act 9147, or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”

Lim recommended the conduct of epidemiological assessments “to determine the actual strain” and “make the proper disease management recommendations.”

The Bureau of Animal Industry is now in the process of sending the samples to the Australian

Animal Health Laboratory, a World Organization for Animal Health Reference Laboratory for avian influenza for further testing.

According to Lim, culling, poisoning or chasing of migratory birds is strongly discouraged as they are proven ineffective and counterproductive.

Handling any sick or dead wild birds is likewise strongly discouraged, but should be reported immediately to the nearest Department of Agriculture Regional Office for collection and analysis of samples for the detection of the virus, she added.

Poultry raisers located in at risk areas visited by migratory birds are advised to contain or isolate their fowls to avoid contact with the wild birds and other wildlife, she also said.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu will be issuing a memorandum to all its regional directors to intensify the surveillance at airports and seaports pertaining to the smuggling of wild birds.

DOH, DA urged to prevent outbreak

Yesterday, Senator Nancy Binay yesterday urged the Departments of Health (DOH) and Agriculture (DA) to assure that there would be no outbreak of bird flu in a larger scale, following the reported upsurge of the disease in poultry farms in Pampanga.

Binay said both government agencies should be prepared to contain the spread of the disease and prevent a possible flu epidemic.

“They need to ensure the safety and health of the public, especially those who are working in the poultry farm and other poultry farms in the country,” Binay said.

“I am calling on these departments to take the lead in containing the spread of the disease among poultry and ensure that no persons would be affected,” she said.

She also urged both departments to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) especially those affected by it.

Economic impact

Meanwhile, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez “Nene” Sato is calling on the national government to study the possible long-term economic impact of the avian flu virus that is currently threatening the country’s multi-billion-peso poultry industry.

Sato also called on concerned government agencies to prepare for a worst-case scenario should other deadly animal diseases threaten other agriculture sub-sectors like our swine and cattle industry.

“Prevention is better than cure. I laud the DA for quickly responding to the situation. However, we need to be more prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Sato, vice chairman of the House Committee on Economic Affairs said following the reported avian flu outbreak in Pampanga.

Quoting Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda, she said following the outbreak, which placed Pampanga under a state of calamity, the potential losses to the poultry sector pegged at P2 billion. (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and Charissa M. Luci-Atienza)

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