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Already bird flu-free, but pork supply still low

The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry said the World Organization for Animal Health declared the Philippines is now free of the last remaining A(H5N6) strain of the Avian Influenza as of January 8.

“I congratulate the DA-BAI and the local governments of Pampanga and Rizal, whose swift action resulted in limiting the further spread of the A(H5N6) strain to other areas,” Agriculture Sec. William Dar said.

Dar took this as good news as the country grappled with the low supply of pork and pork products due to the threat of African swine fever.

The DA said the government efforts resolved the outbreaks of A(H5N6) in a commercial layer poultry farm in Pampanga, and backyard poultry farms in a village in Rizal, in less than a year after the poultry virus re-emerged in the country.

The OIE’s declaration came from the DA-BAI’s report that showed the affected farms no longer have evidence of the presence of the AI virus during the monitoring and surveillance.

“We had not detected any case of A(H5N6) among the poultry and other bird population in the last 90 days after the completion of cleaning and disinfection in the affected farms, surveillance, and monitoring, and completion of the 35-day restocking period with sentinel animals in Pampanga and Rizal,” BAI director Ronnie Domingo said.

On July 10, 2020, the DA-BAI Animal Disease Diagnosis and Reference Laboratory confirmed the recurrence of A(H5N6) after the owner of the commercial layer farm notified the Pampanga provincial veterinary office about the sudden drop in egg production, cyanosis (dark bluish or purplish coloration of the skin and mucous membranes in chickens), and mortalities.

Another case was detected in Rizal, as reported by a farmer on Aug. 26, 2020, to the municipal veterinary office of Taytay.

The backyard farm had approximately 500 heads of free-range chicken and 300 head of Muscovy ducks. The clinical signs — such as wryneck or torticollis, cyanosis of extremities — and death were observed since Aug. 10, 2020.

Domingo noted the swift action of the farmers and local government units as essential in resolving the issue.

The DA-BAI reminds poultry farmers and industry stakeholders to remain vigilant and report any unusual mortalities to their respective farm veterinarians or nearest government veterinary or agriculture office.