Bird flu in Pampanga: DA to cull more fowls from controlled area

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on Wednesday, August 16, that it will also cull around 400,000 birds from 30 farms within the 7-kilometer (km) radius or the controlled area of the avian influenza or bird flu outbreak in San Luis, Pampanga.

"The farm owners whose farms are outside the 1-km radius have already volunteered that they be included in the population. So as of yesterday, a total of 36 farms have been listed to be part of the depopulation process, and this will involve about 600,000 fowls," Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a news briefing on Wednesday.

The new figure already includes the initial 200,000 birds within the 1-km radius that the department earlier identified for culling.

As of Wednesday, a total of 73,110 layer chickens, ducks, fighting cocks, and native chicken both from the commercial and backyard population have already been culled.

Piñol explained that the farm owners who volunteered were "willing to make sacrifices." In addition, he said they "found it hard to go on with their business" since no movement of birds, eggs, or other poultry products is allowed within the 7-km radius.

"They said rather than continuously feed our chicken and earn nothing, we'll only be losing, we might as well surrender our fowls to the government and allow the quarantine personnel to depopulate the farms," he said.

Piñol said this is a "welcome development" for the DA because the farms within the 7-km radius will now serve as the buffer zone to ground zero. (READ: MAP: Barangays near bird flu outbreak in Pampanga)

"It means if the periphery is clean, the chances of the virus spreading outside the area will actually be lessened," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

File photo from Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piu00f1ol's Facebook page

Since the DA will cull more birds in the next 3 days, the department asked the Philippine Army to help in the depopulation of the farms. Brigadier General Rodel Mauro Alarcon said at least 300 from the Philippine Army will assist the DA.

Health Spokesperson Eric Tayag said they will give the personnel prophylactic oseltamivir Tamiflu as a protective measure.

"We have enough supply, and we just have to get the list so that we can plan how to give it and to prepare the medicines so that before they are deployed for the operations, they would have already taken the prophylaxis," Tayag said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In addition to providing the medicines, the health department will also be on standby to help the personnel with how to properly wear the personal protective equipment.

Instead of the original plan to bury the birds, Piñol said they will be burned to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

"Mas nakakatakot 'pag naglibing tayo ng manok na presumably may bird flu doon sa matubig na area kasi 'yung risk ng spread ng contamination would be greater so ang pinag-usapan kahapon was incineration and the only concern is [the] Clean Air Act," the agriculture secretary explained.

(It's scary to bury birds presumably with bird flu in wet areas because the risk of the spread of the contamination would be greater, so what we discussed yesterday is incineration, and the only concern is the Clean Air Act.)

He added: "Ang sabi ko naman, I don't think 600,000 [birds] being burned would really pollute the air. We need to expedite the disposal of these [birds] and we beg for understanding. Kailangan naming gawin 'tong extreme measures na 'to."

(I said, I don't think 600,000 birds being burned would really pollute the air. We need to expedite the disposal of these birds and we beg for understanding. We have to do these extreme measures.) –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.