Overshadowed by the other concerns of the world, the urgency and the threat avian flu poses upon us and on our poultry supply is put on the back burner. That is until it becomes a more pressing matter and affects all of us.
In breaking news, test samples on the bird flu virus in the Philippines were sent to Australia and it just came back positive for the H5N6 strain. But don’t panic yet! Here’s everything you need to know to keep you up to speed about the avian flu in our country.
What is avian flu?
Avian influenza or bird flu is a disease from multiple viruses. It occurs among birds and can affect domestic poultry including chickens and ducks. These birds acquire it through contaminated food or water, and spread it to other birds by their bodily secretions, saliva, or droppings.
It’s caused by an infection with Type A viruses, specifically H5N1, one of the many known subtypes of avian flu virus. H5N1 is also one of the few subtypes to successfully infect humans.
According to Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), more than 700 cases of human infection have been reported to WHO from countries in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Europe and the Near East since November 2003. Approximately 60% of these cases have died.
However, the test sent to Australia last week came back positive for the H5N6 virus which poses a slightly larger threat. This is the strain that can actually infect humans although authorities assure us that like the H5N1, it’s slow to spread and has been a cause for only a few deaths.
Arlene Vytiaco, head of the animal disease control for the Bureau of Animal Industry, said that since H5N6 started in 2014, there have only been 20 deaths worldwide.
Can it affect humans?
Transmission to humans is possible, but rare. The public has been warned against making contact with birds that are infected. The virus can be transmitted through the infected bird’s saliva, feces, or mucus and it can get into a person’s eye, nose, mouth, or even inhaled in droplets or dust. In the few cases that it did, it has been well contained. Most of these cases are from people working at a poultry farm.
Avian flu in Pampanga
Earlier this month, the virus was found affecting over seven farms in San Luis, Pampanga. The Department of Agriculture confirmed that 37,000 birds died because of the strain. The virus was said to have been present since April of this year but was only reported in August after the sheer number of birds affected has been confirmed.
Avian flu spread in Nueva Ecija
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol confirmed that avian influenza has spread from Pampanga to Nueva Ecija. Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali declared a state of calamity after test results from poultry farms in the towns of Jaen and San Isidro came back positive for the virus.
According to Jaen Mayor Sylvia Austria, 9,000 quails have already died from the flu.