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Philippines sounds alarm over bird flu threat

H5N6 strain can affect humans, health chiefs say after 1 million birds culled

Philippines sounds alarm over bird flu threat

Despite a bird flu virus outbreak, Philippine health officials have reassured the public that it is safe to eat poultry. (Photo by Karl Romano)


August 25, 2017

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A bird flu outbreak that hit the northern Philippines last month, prompting the killing of more than 1 million birds, is a strain that can infect humans, the government warned on Aug. 25.

Arlene Vytiaco, head of the animal disease section of the Bureau of Animal Industry, said test results from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory showed that the avian influenza was the H5N6 strain.

The Health Department, however, said there have been no confirmed human infections.

Vytiaco said the strain has a "very, very low" transmission and mortality rate, unlike the H1N1 strain or the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said eating eggs and poultry products remains safe, reassuring the public that the virus is transmitted only through direct contact or exposure.

"We are disseminating public health advisories and have deployed trained health officers who are instructed to investigate if there are infections within 24 hours," said Ubial.

Father Dan Vicente Cancino, executive secretary of the commission on health of the Catholic bishops' conference urged residents of affected provinces to report possible symptoms of infection.

"Early diagnosis is early prevention, and prevention is better than a cure. We must be very vigilant and should be steps ahead of the disease," said the priest.

The Department of Agriculture has culled at least 470,000 chickens since the avian flu alert a month ago.

Some 36 poultry farmers within the seven-kilometer radius of the affected region have also voluntarily culled some 600,000 poultry animals to help the government contain the outbreak.

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