Bird flu or also known as Avian Influenza is caused by viruses adapted to birds. It refers to an illness caused by any of many different strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host.
The Philippines is known to have an avian flu-free status and for the longest time, in almost 20 years, the country managed to remain isolated from the virus. However, it all ended last August 11, 2017 when Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced the country was no longer avian flu-free.
The infected birds tested positive for avian influenza Type A, sub-type H5. Thirty-six farms within the seven-kilometer radius of San Luis in Pampanga that have offered to cull about 600,000 chickens to contain the outbreak.
The province of Pampanga has already declared a state of calamity. The declaration also means funds to help out the affected farmers would be realeased.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has monitored 453 human deaths from 859 cases of avian influenza since 2000, with Asia accounting 41 percent of all cases. However, the Philippines had not previously reported any human cases.
Some thirty-seven thousand birds have died from avian flu sub-type H5 in the country. The deaths were recorded in six farms in rural San Luis town. It is mainly an agricultural municipality with poultry and livestock raising as other major industries.
According to Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), it all started when the poultry farms experienced a large number of deaths of their poultry stocks as early as April in Barangay San Carlos. But deaths on the poultry stocks continued until the month leading to August that some owners began to seek help from the government.
The cause of the transmission is still inconclusive but BAI and Department of Agriculture (DA) officials have suspicions that the spread may have come from migratory birds or from smuggled poultry products. Another possible angle is that farm workers may have hunted for wild migratory birds in the area for food and unintentionally introduced the virus into the farms.
Now, the country is facing its first ever Avian Flu outbreak. What would be the effects of this to the poultry industry?
LOST OF PRODUCTION
- Billion peso industries will go down, since supplies from Central Luzon and Calabarzon will not be able to reach regular markets.
The chicken industry in the Philippines is a P100 billion industry with an estimated 800 million broilers per year. Not included here are the thriving duck and quail industries in Pampanga and other parts of Central Luzon. According to the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in its Chicken Industry Performance Report for 2016, total volume of chicken production in January-June 2016 was 817,822 metric tons. Chicken egg production for the first half of the year was estimated at 232,543 metric tons. The PSA report said that Central Luzon Region had the highest broiler inventory with a total share of 30.58 percent in the country’s total broiler inventory. Calabarzon Region shared 14.35 percent and Northern Mindanao Region, at 13.23 percent. These three regions contributed 58.17 percent to the country’s total broiler inventory. The top three regions in terms of layer inventory were Calabarzon with 35.80 percent share, Central Luzon with 24.34 percent share and Northern Mindanao with 10.13 percent share. The inventory of the top three regions comprised 70.27 percent of the country’s total layer headcount, the PSA report added. However, the Luzon regions, Central Luzon and Calabarzon are affected by the BAI poultry ban as supplies from Luzon are not allowed to be shipped to Visayas and Mindanao.
- Visayas and Mindanao areas would have to make their own fertilized duck egg (Balut) and duck eggs without regular supply from Luzon.
Candaba town, Pampanga’s number one egg producer, has been experiencing an average of P8-million daily loses in sales due to the ban imposed by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) on poultry products coming from Luzon. Balut from Candaba is mainly supplied to Visayas and Mindanao. Candaba Mayor Danilo Baylon said that the town’s duck industry is mainly a backyard industry and many of the families and farm workers depend on sales from shipments to Visayas and Mindanao. Candaba produces some 1.7-million duck eggs that are supplied to sellers outside of Luzon. The problem now, according to local officials, is that the ban had virtually stopped the industry and placed potential revenue on a halt.
Candaba town’s duck industries are not within the quarantine or controlled areas. The Municipal Government of Candaba had earlier filed a resolution asking the BAI to reconsider its ban for poultry products to be shipped out of Luzon adding that there should be consideration for areas which are not affected by the avian flu outbreak.
- There is no compensation to producers for birds that die from the virus.
The biggest financial impact form avian flu outbreak definitely affects the poultry producers that are directly impacted by it. There is no compensation to producers for birds that die from the virus; however, they are compensated partially for birds that are euthanized.
- Poultry and egg barns need to be disinfected over a period of time
Farms with the disease lose not only the infected birds, but the rest of their flocks on the same farm as well. Poultry and egg barns need to be disinfected over a period of time, meaning barns will sit empty, further decreasing poultry and egg production.
- Employment reductions on poultry farms, processing plants, as well as associated businesses.
The bird flu outbreak has also affected feed suppliers and other input providers for poultry farms. There have also been employment reductions on poultry farms and in processing plants, as well as in associated businesses. The hardest hit counties in central Minnesota and northwest Iowa have especially noticed the community-wide economic impacts resulting from the avian flu outbreak.
- Poultry farms already had strong “biosecurity” programs.
Many large poultry farms already had strong “bio-security” programs in place prior to the outbreak of the highly contagious avian flu. However, they are now encouraging poultry operations of all sized to review and step-up bio-security efforts on their farms.
Bio-security measures include restrictions on people and vehicles entering poultry farms or facilities, using known feed and water sources, and good sanitation procedures for employees and others that enter poultry facilities. Producers are also analyzing their poultry facilities to see if any changes can be made to ventilation systems and other operations within the poultry barns.
Now that the highly virulent strain of bird flu has reached Philippines, the abuse may well extend far beyond poultry to include wild birds and many mammals domestic or wild, who have supposedly had any contact with the disease.
While the Agriculture Department is still investigating the bird flu outbreak, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on Friday advised the public to take these safety precautions:
- Cover the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing;
- Wash hands often;
- Take plenty of water and juices;
- Have enough rest and sleep;
- Do not go near wild birds or go to farms with fowls;
- If you have flu symptoms that last longer than three days or if you feel very weak, see a doctor or go to nearest hospital for testing if it is bird flu.