The Philippines has reported an outbreak of avian flu after tests revealed the existence of the highly contagious Influenza-A virus sub-type H5N6 in a quail farm in the country's northern outskirt, a farm official disclosed Monday.
More than two years after a similar strain affected poultry in the region, Agriculture Secretary William Dar reported the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza or bird flu has re-emerged in the Philippines.
According to sources, Dar said the avian flu was found in the municipality of Jaen in the province of Nueva Ecija where about 1,500 birds died in a single quail farm. Dar added that a total of 12,000 quails were buried alive to keep the virus from spreading to other areas.
In a media briefing, Dar said quarantine checkpoints for animals were set up to limit the movement of all live stocks to and from the isolated farm.
During the 2017 bird flu outbreak in Luzon, there was no poultry to human transmissions. There have been only a few cases of human infections worldwide and all of these cases have been reported in China, health officials said.
"We are on top of the case," he said, adding that strict monitoring will be conducted immediately around the 1-kilometer and 7-kilometer radius to ensure the disease has not spread across the said perimeter.
Dar noted that infected quails may pass the disease on to humans through secretions. He added though that there was no evidence of human-bird flu transmission in the Philippines when Pampanga and Nueva Ecija experienced the same strain in 2017.
The World Health Organization said it has not issued any data from January 31 to February 6, 2020, on new cases of human H5N6 infection. In a February 7 update, WHO reported from China since 2014 a total of 24 laboratory-confirmed cases of human H5N6 infection including seven deaths.
Bird flu can be contagious to humans but the rate of infection is not that high. The development comes at a moment when the Philippines is witnessing growing cases of the dreaded coronavirus disease as health authorities still scramble to combat the African swine fever.
Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, Philippine Department of Agriculture Scientific Research spokeswoman for avian flu, said that although there is a risk of human transmission by excretion and secretion, the chances are "quite small."
She said transporting day-old chicks, hatching eggs, and chicken meat would be allowed to ensure a steady domestic supply of poultry, provided the source farms have tested negative for bird flu.