The Philippines declared its first ever outbreak of the H5 strain of avian influenza in Pampanga today (Friday, August 11).
An immediate cull was ordered for all chickens, ducks and quail within one kilometre of the infected poultry in San Luis town, north of Manila, said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.
It has been reported that 37,000 birds have died during the outbreak.
The health department is now monitoring the health of people exposed to the infected birds.
“So far we do not have any reported animal to human transmissions,” Mr Pinol told a news conference.
The infected birds tested positive for avian influenza Type A, sub-type H5.
The avian flu strains that have been known to jump to humans are the H5N1 and H5N7 subtypes, said Celia Carlos, director of the health department’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Officials have not yet confirmed which H5 subtype the infected birds carried.
“The transmission risk is low, but the mortality is high. It is a concern,” said Ms Carlos.
The World Health Organisation has monitored 453 human deaths from 859 cases of avian influenza since 2000. Asia accounts for 41 per cent of all cases. The Philippines has never reported any human cases.
At least 400,000 birds — some sources say up to one million — will have to be put down and their carcasses buried, Mr Pinol said, adding that farmers would receive compensation of up to 70 pesos per bird.
“We really have to do it [cull birds] because we don’t want the disease to spread. I already ordered our quarantine department to set up quarantine stations in the area,” he added.
The six infected Philippine farms only sold their products locally. It is believed the outbreak began in April, but was not reported to the authorities until now.
As a further precaution, the transport of all poultry products from within seven kilometres of the infected farms has been banned.
San Luis, 37 miles north of Manila, is close to the Candaba swamps, a favoured spot for migratory birds to spend winter.
Lilia Pineda, the Governor of Pampanga, has declared a state of calamity throughout the province.