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34 workers negative for bird flu
MANILA, Philippines - Thirty-four workers from Pampanga and Nueva Ecija who were suspected to have been infected with avian flu tested negative for the A(H5N6) strain that hit the country’s poultry industry, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.
The DOH was able to identify 34 suspected cases – 30 from Pampanga and four from Nueva Ecija as of Aug. 24 – after the outbreak in poultry farms in San Luis, Pampanga and in Jaen and San Isidro towns in Nueva Ecija was reported by the Department of Agriculture.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters that the 34 workers were “promptly placed in isolation as part of the precautionary measure to avert any possible human-to-human transmission of infection.”
“They were also started on the antiviral Oseltamivir while waiting for the laboratory results from RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine),” she added.
Ubial said the bird-to-human transmission of the virus could happen through direct contact with live birds infected with the virus through fluid secretions.
Humans infected with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus could suffer flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, colds, fatigue, muscle pain, shortness of breath and sometimes diarrhea.
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She also cited records from the World Health Organization saying that when the virus hit China in 2014, only two out of 20 people infected died.
“For humans, this A(H5N6) is not that fatal as opposed to other types of avian influenza, like in H1N1 when 50 percent mortality rate was recorded,” Ubial said.
Ubial also reminded the public to avoid direct contact with infected fowl and practice frequent handwashing to avoid contracting the virus.
She also advised farm workers to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfect more often using one liter of water with one milliliter of bleach.
Transmission of the bird flu virus is also not possible through eating cooked chicken and egg, Ubial stressed, as she and officials from the RITM and Bureau of Animal Industry also present yesterday demonstrated.
However, she reminded the public to cook poultry products well and separate raw from cooked meat.
Meanwhile, Ubial announced the department has designated the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Medical Center in San Fernando, Pampanga and the Paulino Garcia Memorial and Research Medical Center in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija as referral hospitals for assessment of suspected cases and collection of specimen for laboratory diagnosis.
“I have ordered the formulation of the interim guidelines, standards and other instructions in the implementation of the Enhanced Human Avian Flu Surveillance Management and Infection Control in the Health Setting,” she added.
“Further, I directed the preemptive positioning of necessary commodities to protect against bird flu transmission to humans such as PPE and antiviral medicines to DOH Regional Office 3,” she said.