Efforts were underway to contain the spread of bird flu virus in the Philippines after an outbreak on a poultry farm on the main Luzon island was detected, Philippines authorities said on Saturday. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told local radio DZBB that the Department of Health is on "heightened alert," with health workers on the lookout for possible flu-like symptoms when attending to patients with flu or flu-like illness.
In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) said it has advised "all health providers" to "observe respiratory precautions" when taking care of patients sick with the flu.
"A team of DOH epidemiologists has been dispatched to assist the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the outbreak investigation. The DOH is now alerting hospitals in the affected areas to report similar cases," the DOH said.
Ubial said that the DOH is closely coordinating with DA in efforts to contain the spread of the virus. "We are giving personal protective equipment to poultry workers and the disinfection of areas with suspected bird flu cases. (The workers) will also be given vaccination for influenza," she said.
The DOH said that it is also coordinating with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of the virus to humans.
The Philippines reported on Friday its first outbreak of bird flu on a poultry farm in San Luis town in the Pampanga province, some 75 km north of Manila.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he has ordered the culling of some 400,000 birds to contain the spread of the poultry disease. Also, he said he has ordered the temporary halt of transport of poultry from Luzon to other parts of the country.
Piñol said at least 38,000 chickens have died of the avian influenza Type A Subtype H5 in San Luis. "We will cull all 400,000 birds within the one-kilometer area. We don't want diseases to spread," Piñol told reporters.
Health Secretary Ubial has also advised Filipinos to seek medical help if they have flu symptoms that last longer than three days or if they experienced flu-like symptoms. She also cautioned people against going near wild birds or to farms with fowls.
President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella said "heightened surveillance for flu-like symptoms is now instituted in Pampanga within a 7-kilometer radius of the affected farms."
The government has placed Pampanga province under a state of calamity due to the outbreak in San Luis.
A 7-km quarantine area has been declared, covering seven other towns, including Apalit, Minalin, Sta. Ana, Canada, Mexico, San Simon, San Fernando City and Sto. Tomas.
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