The Philippines has been battling a devastating outbreak of bird flu. The government announced on August 11 that poultry had been infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Hundreds of thousands of chicken, ducks and quail have been destroyed since the first report of sick poultry. To date, there is no evidence of human infection in this outbreak.
Bird Flu Infections in Two Provinces
The flu was first identified in the province of Nueva Ecija. Within a week, a state of calamity was declared in the towns of Jaen and San Isidro. Australian lab results also confirmed the presence of bird flu in the province of Pampanga, north of Manila. The Pampanga cases were located about 30 miles from a bird sanctuary located in a swampy area and containing migratory birds from China.
Scientists Worry About a Future Pandemic
H5N1 is highly contagious, transmitted by bird-to-bird contact and by contaminated clothing, chicken feed and farming equipment. Infected wild birds can transmit the disease, as may be the case in the Philippines. Scientists worry that bird flu will mutate into an airborne disease and become as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu. That pandemic infected approximately one third of the world’s population and caused up to 50 million deaths.
While not all strains of bird flu are harmful to humans, the World Health Organization has reported 859 cases of human infection by the H5N1 virus. More than half (453) of those people died.
On August 22, the government assured residents it was safe to eat chicken meat currently for sale in local markets. No poultry products coming from infected regions can be sold. A new biosecurity audit and controls will be implemented on all farms to prevent further occurrences of bird flu in the Philippines.
Image source: Wikipedia