Palace mulls AFP help in containing bird flu outbreak

MANILA -- MalacaAang on Tuesday said it is considering the use of military troops to hasten the clearing of areas affected by the avian flu virus in the province of Pampanga.

At a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the first ever avian flu outbreak in the country is no small calamity and the government is doing everything to swiftly contain the outbreak.

We sympathize with the plight of farmers and other sectors in the poultry industry which are burdened by the drastic measures needed to contain and eradicate our first ever avian flu outbreak, he said.

However, the Palace official noted that the Department of Agriculture (DA) may require additional personnel, given the huge task of cleaning and containing a large area.

Despite their lack of personnel, we urge the DA and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to expedite the various clearing to minimize the losses and hasten the recovery of the poultry industry, he said.

Perhaps, if needed, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can field more men to cull birds. This is, after all, no small calamity, Abella said.

The avian flu outbreak was first confirmed by the DA last Thursday in the town of San Luis, Pampanga.

According to reports, the outbreak was contained in six poultry farms in the municipality.

The DA said that all birds -- chickens, birds, ducks, pigeons, quails -- within a one-kilometer radius from the affected farms will have to be culled.

So far, BAI reported that more than 18,000 birds have been culled.

While the type of bird flu that hit San Luis cannot be transmitted to humans, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol issued an order temporarily banning all fowl shipments from Luzon to other parts of the Philippines.

He said the ban on the shipment of poultry meat and poultry products from Luzon to the rest of the country is an aggressive step to contain the spread of avian influenza to other parts of the country.

The Agriculture chief said the ban will be temporary and will be lifted as soon as experts conclude that the risk of spreading the virus has been eliminated.

But since there is no outbreak in the Visayas and Mindanao, PiAol said the shipment of poultry and poultry products from these areas to Luzon would be allowed.

In the meantime, the Department of Health (DOH) said it could up take up to 90 days before an area is declared bird-flu free.

Health officials also reminded the public that it is safe to eat chicken meat, eggs, and other poultry products � as long as they are "properly cooked."

Source: Philippine News Agency