THE Department of Health yesterday placed on heightened alert all hospitals and other health facilities in Pampanga.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the heightened alert was prompted by the bird flu outbreak in a poultry farm in San Luis, Pampanga.
“Ang pinaghahandaan namin yung heightened surveillance sa lahat ng mga ospital at health facilities diyan sa Pampanga. Nagpalabas na kami ng advisory,” she said.
Ubial said she has also instructed local health officials to "test" individuals showing influenza-like illness for more than three days.
“Dapat ite-testing yung mga may flu na more than three days or yung mas malala kaysa the usual trangkaso, ubo't sipon,” she said.
Earlier, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol revealed that the outbreak of avian influenza Type-A, sub-type H4 began in a quail farm and spread to poultry farms in Barangay San Agustin in San Luis town.
Some 37,000 birds have already died from the virus, and a number of farms have reported a mortality rate of as high as 100 percent.
Meanwhile, Ubial said that the DoH has been monitoring and has stepped up its surveillance of cases of human flu-like illnesses following the reported human influenza outbreaks in Hong Kong and India a few months ago.
She added a team of epidemiologists has been dispatched to assist the Department of Agriculture, and the DoH has pre-positioned about 3,000 test kits in Region 3 or Central Luzon.
“By Monday mag-iikot na ang ating epidemiologists to find out kung meron nang mga increased cases of influenza,” she said.
Pampanga has been placed under a state of calamity due to the outbreak in San Luis town.
A seven-kilometer quarantine area has been declared, covering seven other municipalities including Apalit, Minalin, Sta. Ana, Candaba, Mexico, San Simon, City of San Fernando and Sto. Tomas.
Safe to eat
The Health chief assured the people that only chickens are affected by the virus, noting that the DoH is working with the DA on providing protective equipment to poultry farmers.
“Nagko-collaborate po tayo with DA para mabigyan ng personal protective equipment yung poultry workers at magsasagawa nung disinfection nung mga area with suspected bird flu cases at bibigyan natin sila ng mga vaccination for influenza. And then nagkakaroon na rin tayo ng mga advisory sa mga poultry handlers on how to ensure that they are kept free from avian influenza," she said.
Ubial also assured the public that properly cooked chicken remains safe to eat.
“Hindi po nakukuha ang avian flu sa gastrointestinal... so kahit na kumain tayo ng infected na meat hindi po natin makukuha, Siya po ay nakukuha sa respiratory, yung nalalanghap po. Ang talagang at risk diyan ay yung poultry handlers at saka yung nagkakatay ng manok. Pero yung kumakain ng manok wala na pong risk yan kasi naluto na yung manok at hindi naman sa pagkain nata-transmit ang virus," she pointed out.