PHL to regain bird flu-free status by March

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The Philippines could finally become bird flu-free before the end of the first quarter after the government has successfully completed the cleaning and disinfection process in the last affected farm in Nueva Ecija.

Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Animal Health and Welfare Division Chief Aryln Vytiaco told the BusinessMirror that the agency has started to load 650 heads of day-old cockerels as sentinel birds in the bird flu-affected layer farm in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, on February 1.

This would mean that the 90-day countdown toward regaining the country’s bird flu-free status has already started.

Vytiaco disclosed that the 90th day following the cleaning and disinfection of the bird flu-affected poultry farm in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, falls on March 23.

This would mean that the final sanitation procedures in the bird flu-affected layer farm were completed just before Christmas, or around December 22, based on the computation of the BusinessMirror.

Under the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a country will only be declared free from avian influenza (AI) if it would not report any outbreak within 90 days after the final disinfection of the affected areas.

In its official report to the OIE, the BAI said 42,000 birds were affected by the bird flu that struck Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. Of the total population, 27,675 instantly died from the virus, while the remaining 14,325 were killed and disposed of.

The discovery of AI in a layer farm in Cabiao last November reset the country’s countdown to bird flu-free status. The government has earlier targeted to notify the OIE last December 20, after the cleaning and disinfection of AI-affected farms in San Isidro and Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Under the Avian Influenza Protection Program: Manual of Procedures 2016, the BAI would now monitor the sentinel birds for the next 35 days. The BAI will collect oropharyngeal, or tracheal, swab samples from the sentinel birds five times during the 35-day period. The samples would then be subjected to laboratory tests to determine whether the AI virus is still present in the area.

The recognition of the Philippines as a bird flu-free nation would reopen foreign markets for local poultry. The country’s poultry exports are still banned in a number of countries, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore, after the government announced the discovery of bird flu in Central Luzon last August.

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