Philippines: Dozens of Patients Test Negative for Bird Flu

Felipe Villamor
170825-PH-flu-620.jpg Philippine Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial speaks during a press conference about boxing, Aug. 15, 2017.

The Philippines identified nearly three dozen suspect cases of humans infected with the H5N6 bird flu virus, but initial test results indicated they were free from the disease, according to health officials.

So far, the flu outbreak has forced the government to order the slaughter of about 500,000 poultry in the northern provinces of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

“Since the Department of Agriculture’s declaration of the bird flu outbreaks in early August, the (health department) was able to identify 34 suspect cases,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said in a statement. “They were promptly placed in isolation as part of precautionary measures to avert any possible human-to-human transmission of infection.”

The unidentified patients were given antiviral drugs as a precaution and as of Thursday, all tested negative for influenza.

Rosell-Ubial said the H5N6 strain was reported in 2014. The Philippine patients were involved in poultry slaughter operations, adding the flu strain has low human-to-human transmission rates.

The more well-known and dangerous to humans strain has been identified as H1N1. That strain was last detected here in 2005, Rosell-Ubial said.

On standby

The health department said it was placed epidemiologists on a 24-hour standby and appointed two regional hospitals to handle suspect cases and collect specimens for laboratory testing.

“We at the (health department) are doing everything to effectively respond to this infection,” Rosell-Ubial said. “With our partners, we are actively disseminating public health advisories on the prevention of the transmission of bird flu virus to the human population.”

Anti-viral medicines and protective equipment were prepared for the possibility of quickly responding to the bird flu threat, she said.

The state-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has been placed on “heightened alert status” with trained medical and para-medical teams who are ready to attend to bird flu cases quickly.

“As a precautionary measure for those who had direct contact with infected poultry and had developed any flu symptoms, we urge you and the public to report to the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units,” of the health department, Rosell-Ubial said.

Officials announced the outbreak of the bird flu on Aug. 11 and isolated poultry farms in the north, ordering the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds.

The virus was detected in the Philippines in May, but farm owners initially tried to keep the outbreak a secret from animal quarantine officials, according to the government. By July, the disease had spread to at least six farms and infected tens of thousands of birds.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.