DAVAO CITY—Experts at the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) camp here are closely monitoring the health of the eagles in captivity, as it closed the camp for evaluation and assessment of the new protocols, mainly on quarantine procedures, to be observed by all personnel inside the breeding camp.
The breeding camp is located in Marilog district, about 10 kilometers outside the more populous Calinan district, 29 kilometers north of downtown.
Dennis Salvador, camp director, told the BusinessMirror on Tuesday extra precautions should be observed by all working staff going to and inside the camp over the “clear and present danger” posed by the avian flu.
Agriculture and health officials in the region have assured a still-unaffected poultry sector the government has installed stricter measures like disallowing further entry of poultry stocks from Luzon.
Salvador warned the avian flu has been in the country since April and it was only this month when a national emergency has been raised, about more than three months after the initial report of contamination.
He said the avian flu posed a far greater risk to the eagles, saying “the eagles have the ability to mask illness”.
“They may look to us like they were not infected,” he said, warning that once infection is detected, “it would be too late”.
“Remember, there is still no cure for the avian flu. This is one reason authorities have to exterminate the affected poultry,” he said.
The avian-flu virus has a gestation period of as short as a few hours to two days to five days. “It’s variable, but fairly quick. That’s the problem posed to our eagles here. The situation for the eagles is very dangerous now, a very clear and present danger.”
There are 35 eagles in the camp, some of them bred in captivity. A few hundreds are in the wilds.
In closing the breeding camp here for two days beginning on Tuesday, he said this would allow them to implement risk management. “We are discussing the ways we can manage the threat and install additional quarantine protocols.”
So far, the new features include additional foot baths for disinfection, “and additional quarantine areas somewhere else where captured or rescued eagles from anywhere would be quarantined there first”.
“We don’t allow new eagles to be brought directly here,” he said. “They have to stay somewhere else as we continue our work.”
He said he would appreciate any help to the PEF “because we are not a government agency and we operate on our own; any help would be appreciated to help us in installing additional quarantine protocols.”
He said the camp’s previous request to the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to have an alternative breeding camp outside of the host country, “maybe the US, for instance”.
“It’s like a safety net, to loan some of our eagles outside, to avoid getting all raptors in the camp getting affected in situations like this threat of the avian flu,” he added.
Salvador said the request has begun to move only this week, four years after it was filed with the DENR.
After the two days of closure, he said the camp might be opened anew to visitors. “We only ask our visitors to please comply with the quarantine and safety protocols inside the camp.”
The Department of Health, meantime, appealed for calm over the outbreak of the avian flu in Pampanga.
“Don’t panic. But be vigilant. There is nothing to fear, because as the name alone implies, bird flu is about birds, or chicken,” Assistant Health Secretary Abdullah Dumama said.
He said there had been no report yet of the transmission of the virus, from birds and fowls to human beings. “There is no transmission from birds and poultry to human. We cannot get it from food.”
However, he warned consumers “not to take it for granted. Just cook your food well, no half cooking.”
If there were fear about getting it through inhalation, he said, “It’s nil. There has been no case of transmission yet.”
He said the infection of poultry in Pampanga “made us the last Asian country hit by the bird flu, and that means it has not yet affected us much.”