Philippines now free of H5N6 bird flu, but monitoring another strain

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The Philippines is now free of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu virus, the Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday, citing a declaration by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

“As of Jan. 8, the country is now free of the last remaining A(H5N6) strain of the avian Influenza,” having resolved the outbreaks in Pampanga province and a village in Rizal, near the capital region, it said in a statement.

However, the Southeast Asian country, a major importer of chicken and other poultry products, was not dropping its guard against the disease, it said.

The agriculture department had imposed a temporary ban on the importation of domestic and wild birds and their products from France, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Poland, where another highly pathogenic strain – H5N8 – has been detected.

The Philippines is among the world’s biggest meat importers and consumers, with chicken, pork and beef all a mainstay in the Filipino diet.

In a report to the OIE, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) – an agency under the agriculture department – said the affected farms in Pampanga and Rizal had shown no further evidence of the presence of the H5N6 virus.

“We had not detected any case…among the poultry and other bird population in the last 90 days after the completion of cleaning and disinfection in the affected farms,” BAI Director Ronnie Domingo said.

Avian flu outbreaks are a recurring concern for the agriculture department and the local poultry industry, having recorded outbreak cases in 2017 and 2018.

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