From: Dolly Aglay, Reuters
Published July 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Philippines Checks Sanctuaries after Bird Flu Case

MANILA — The Philippines is monitoring poultry farms near bird sanctuaries because the three ducks on farm discovered to have the country's first case of bird flu may have been infected by migratory birds.


Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said he had asked animal health officials to conduct random blood tests of chicken and duck flocks near 20 watering holes frequented by migratory birds in the country.


Blood samples of people on who came in close contact with the three ducks will also be tested, said Yolly Oliveros, head of the Centre for Disease Prevention Control of the health department. On Friday, the Philippines reported that the ducks on a remote farm in Calumpit town in northern Philippines were found to have a "low" strain of avian influenza called H5.


"We only detected the bird flu strain after the owner applied to export balut," Yap told Reuters, referring to unhatched duck embryo eggs, a Filipino delicacy.


Health Secretary Francisco Duque said on Friday blood samples from the infected ducks have been sent to Australia to determine whether the strain of avian influenza was the same as the one that has killed dozens of people elsewhere in Asia.


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The H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus has killed 54 people of the 154 infected in Asia so far. More than 140 million chickens have been killed in the region to halt bird flu, causing millions of dollars in losses.


Scientists last week said the spread of avian flu virus among migrating geese and other birds at a wildlife refuge in China means the birds could carry the devastating virus out of Asia.


This makes avian flu even more of a global threat that it already is, the scientists said in reports published jointly by the journals Science and Nature.


The World Health Organization has said the virus would kill millions of people worldwide if it acquires the ability to pass easily from human to human.


So far it has not, but influenza is extremely mutation-prone. Jose Molina, head of the Bureau of Animal Industry, said the infected ducks in the Philippines came from a farm located on the periphery of the Candaba swamp, a bird sanctuary frequented by migratory birds.


"We think the infection might have come from migratory birds," Molina told Reuters.


Health authorities culled 230 head of ducks in the affected farm, and set up a quarantine zone in the town of Calumpit in Bulacan province.


It also halted trading and sale of poultry for a week within the quarantine area, while exporters voluntarily stopped sale of poultry products to Japan.


The Philippines' 150-billion peso ($2.67 billion) poultry industry employs 300,000 people.


The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health have assured people it was safe to eat chicken and properly cooked duck meat.


Source: Reuters


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