Philippines Freezes Domestic Shipments of Poultry Amid Bird-Flu Scare

Felipe Villamor
170815-ph-620.JPG A vendor attends to dressed chickens for sale at a public market in Manila, May 20, 2008.

The Philippines on Tuesday ordered a temporary ban on domestic shipments of wild birds, chicken and poultry meat from the main island of Luzon to anywhere in the country in order to contain avian influenza.

The ban came days after the government announced that 400,000 birds would be culled in the town of San Luis in northern Pampanga province – where the virus was first detected – as a measure to prevent the flu from spreading.

There were no reports of the virus having crossed species when the culling was announced last week, but the health department said Tuesday it had quarantined two poultry workers in the town of Pampanga, north of Manila, “for manifesting symptoms of bird flu.”

One of the workers had a cough while the other had developed fever – both symptoms of the avian flu virus – Health department spokesman Eric Tayag said.

The two, who were not named, were among 20 workers interviewed by government disease experts sent to Pampanga.

“Influenza is characterized by fever, cough and sore throat so their symptoms are not complete,” Tayag said. “But because of the fact that they have symptoms, we can now call them ‘suspect cases,’” Tayag said.

News of the quarantine broke as Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol issued a directive to stop the shipments of birds and bird products to other parts of the country, five days after the government confirmed the avian influenza.

The government had earlier sought to play down the effect of the bird flu on humans, saying that what was detected was a strain not known to cross species.

Piñol said the ban was “an aggressive step to contain the spread of the avian influenza to other parts of the country.” He said it would be lifted as soon as the risk was contained.

The ban was covered by a memorandum circular and affects “live domestic and wild birds including poultry eat, day-old chicks, eggs, semen and manure” from the main island of Luzon, according to Piñol.

The same products, however, could move anywhere in Luzon as long as they originated from areas outside a controlled seven-kilometer (4.3-mile) radius in Pampanga.

The shipments will be subject to strict scrutiny, including a veterinary health certificate issued by the government that the products were sourced from farms free of influenza, officials said.


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