by Charina Clarisse Echaluce and Francis Wakefield
The Department of Health (DOH) is now on “heightened vigilance” following the reported new cases of bird flu in Nueva Ecija.
“Hindi po [alarming]. Kami po ay nasa state of heightened vigilance. Alam naman natin na itong situwasyon sa bird flu ay nasa mga feathered animals, particularly sa manok. Wala pa po kaming nare-report na nahawa. Patuloy po ang pagmomonitor namin niyan. It remains an animal health problem (It’s not yet alarming. We are in the state of heightened vigilance. We all know that in this situation, bird flu is affecting feathered animals, particularly chickens. We have not recorded any case of human influenza caused by bird flu virus. We continue to monitor. So far, it remains an animal health problem),” DOH spokesman Eric Tayag said.
“Heightened vigilance” means the DOH teams are ready to be deployed at any moment.
Tayag said a team of experts from the DOH are now ready for deployment to Nueva Ecija after the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed the spread of bird flu in the province.
In an ambush interview Friday, Tayag said the DA has already informed Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial about the new cases of bird flu in Jaen and San Isidro Nueva Ecija.
But prior to the confirmation, the DOH team in Pampanga had already assembled a team ready to be deployed to Nueva Ecija.
“Naghanda na rin po sila, sapagkat kapag nilabas po iyong resulta na positive, sila po ay kaagad na ide-deploy po roon para po tumulong sa Department of Agriculture at para gawin din po ang nasimulan nilang gawin sa San Luis (They have already prepared, so they would be ready for deployment should the result be positive. They will be deployed there to help the DA and do what they are doing in San Luis, Pampanga),” Tayag added.
Nueva Ecija became the second province in the country with confirmed cases of bird flu, after Pampanga.
At present, the DOH is monitoring those who are working in poultry farms in the affected areas.
Apart from DOH teams, the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) have assembled soldiers for culling of bird flu-affected fowls in Pampanga.
Lt. Col. Isagani G. Nato, chief of the AFP NolCom’s Public Information Office, said 303 troops from the 48th Infantry Battalion (IB) were deployed to Pampanga and have already culled a total of 6,000 chickens as of Thursday midnight.
Nato said the activity manifests the commitment of Northern Luzon Command under Lt. Gen. Romeo T. Tanalgo to respond, protect, and secure the Filipinos in its area of responsibility, through inter-agency coordination and support to national development.
Nato said the soldiers will augment DA teams in the conduct of chicken culling activity.
“They were initially trained and individually screened based on the health condition parameters set by the Department of Health (DOH) before being authorized to participate in culling,” Nato said.
The Fort Magsaysay Station Hospital also sent military medical personnel to assist in expediting the screening process and authorization of those who can cull chickens.