Tests confirm Philippine bird flu strain can be transmitted to humans

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Bird flu
Although the H5N6 strain can be transmitted to humans, it is slow to spread and rarely fatal

The bird flu that has hit parts of the Philippines has been confirmed as H5N6 — a strain that can be transmitted to humans.

Following the results of testing at an Australian laboratory, agriculture officials have been swift to emphasise that the strain is slow to spread and causes few deaths.

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Speaking at a press briefing today (Thursday, August 24), Bureau of Animal Industry spokeswoman Arlene Vytiaco said: “The rate of transmission is very, very low.”

She added that countries such as Japan and Myamnar which had been affected by H5N6 had not reported any humans infected by the virus. “The mortality rate is also low,” she said.

Since H5N6 was first identified in 2014, there have been only 20 deaths reported worldwide.

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The Department of Health has been conducting regular check-ups on farmers and workers in areas affected by the outbreak.

Ms Vytiaco said no new patients had been admitted since two farm workers who reported flu-like symptoms last week tested negative for bird flu.

Present since April

The government had been waiting to see what the bird flu’s ’N’ strain was — particularly on the lookout for the N1 and N6 strains, which can be passed on to humans.

Tests confirmed it was not the much deadlier H5N1 virus.

The outbreak of bird flu was first reported earlier this month. The virus was found in birds from seven farms in San Luis, Pampanga.

The Department of Agriculture earlier said the virus had been present since April, but was only reported in August after 37,000 birds had died.

A ban on the shipment of poultry and poultry products from Luzon to other parts of the country that was imposed on August 13 as a precautionary measure was lifted on Tuesday.

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