September 2, 2007

Bird flu watch up in three Ilocos Norte towns

The Provincial Veterinary’s Office (PVET) has identified wetlands in the towns of Pagudpud, Paoay and Bangui as surveillance areas for migratory birds.

Dr. Loida Chee, provincial veterinarian, said migratory birds have been sighted in large swamps in Barangay Saud in Pagudpud, in Manayon marshland in Bangui and at the Paoay Lake in Paoay town beginning December last year to the present.

“Migration season normally begins in September and they leave our area around April or May. We expect thousands of migratory birds to flock towards our area because of its proximity from Taiwan and other Chinese territories,” she said.

Migratory birds have been tagged as natural carriers of the avian influenza virus or the bird flu.

The PVET has reactivated the provincial avian influenza task force in line with the bird-flu preparedness of the province.

Chee said the towns were identified as critical areas for surveillance because thousands of wild waterfowls and other species of migratory birds which were mostly cattle egrets were sighted separately.

She noted, however, that lesser birds flocked to Ilocos Norte from June 2006 to June this year compared to the migration season during the same period beginning 2005.

The PVET will start collecting blood samples from fowls and native chicken beginning October to determine whether they are positive of the virus.

Dr. Laarni Cabantac, assistant coordinator of the National Avian Influenza Task Force, said monitoring of critical areas around the country would be strengthened so that it could maintain its status as bird flu-free.

She said airport footbaths (mats where passengers from abroad could step on to sanitize their footwear) have been found to be an effective preventive measure against the entry of the bird virus.

She said the Laoag International Airport should have a footbath installed as a measure against the entry of the virus through the footwear of passengers coming from Asian countries.

The task force has adopted other preventive measures such as putting up more laboratories to test the presence of the virus, widen the coverage of areas for disease surveillance and intensify information and education campaign in areas that have been identified as critical due to the presence of migratory birds. (PIA News Service-Laoag City)

Cristina Arzadon

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