DA chief: Bird flu strain in Pampanga cannot be transmitted to humans

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture chief Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol on Sunday said the bird flu strain that has affected poultry in a town in Pampanga cannot be transmitted to humans.

Piñol said a recent laboratory test showed that the avian influenza that hit San Luis, Pampanga was tested negative for H5N6, a strain of the bird flu virus that could affect humans.

He said even Agriculture officials working with quarantine officers exposed to the contaminated chickens were not affected. He considers this a “good indication.”

“His (DA official) health would be a manifestation that indeed the laboratory tests were accurate that this strain of avian influenza is not a strain that could be transmitted from animals to human beings. Otherwise, he would have been sick,” Piñol said in an interview with CNN.

Despite testing negative for H5N6, Piñol said the Department of Agriculture would still conduct confirmatory tests with an Australian agency to ensure that the strain is not harmful to humans.

The DA confirmed the country’s first outbreak of bird flu in San Luis last Friday.

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Piñol however said the bird flu has been there since April but he said it was only reported to their agency this August.

DA bans shipment of fowls from Luzon

The Agriculture chief also said that he ordered a ban on shipment of poultry from Luzon to other points in the country as part of the agency’s precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

“Just to make sure that it doesn’t spread to other parts of the country we have imposed a total ban on the shipment on fowls from Luzon to the other parts of the country,” Piñol said.

Piñol said there is a need to contain shipments because the department does not know how widely the virus has spread.

Piñol admitted the ban will effect supply.

“It will surely adversely affect the chicken supply but what we have at stake here is the whole poultry industry. A little discomfort, a few million in losses, couldn’t even be considered in the case of the great threat that the poultry industry would face if we know our God in this time of crisis,” he said.

“In terms of losses, it wouldn’t be much,” he added.

Piñol said the ban would only affect about six farms that grow chickens for eggs.

Aside from the effect on the supply chain of chicken, Piñol said the bird flu outbreak will affect the sales due to consumers’ reaction to the bird flu scare.

“We have to understand the reaction of the public to this crisis. The first reaction would be for people to stop eating chicken,” he said.

Piñol said the people cannot be stopped from thinking there could be danger in eating chicken that is why there is a reason to stop fowl shipment.

The market monitoring in major wet markets in the metro reported that retail prices of chicken meat have declined amid the outbreak.