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EDITORIAL - Quick containment

For the first time ever, the country has been hit by avian flu. Agriculture officials said the virus was first detected in a quail farm in San Luis, Pampanga, but delayed reporting allowed its spread to five other farms nearby. With 38,000 poultry heads dead so far from the outbreak, an estimated 400,000 chickens, ducks and quail within a one-kilometer radius of the six farms are being culled.

Public cooperation, especially in reporting early signs of avian flu, is critical in preventing the spread of the virus. Agriculture officials said symptoms of the flu were detected as early as April, but the outbreak was reported only when the situation worsened last month. The highly pathogenic avian influenza strain can cause 80 to 100 percent mortality in poultry, and has the potential to jump to humans.

So far, no human cases have been reported. But the potential is there, and only vigilance and quick reporting can save a patient and prevent the spread of the virus.

Pampanga, which has declared a state of calamity following confirmation of the outbreak, is particularly vulnerable because it is home to a large swamp and farms that teem with migratory birds. Agriculture officials are trying to determine if the birds or smuggled Peking ducks from China might have been the source of the outbreak.

Producers surely understand that the best way to save their businesses for the long term is to allow mass culling of their poultry. Every fowl and poultry farm worker must be tested for the virus, and quarantine rules must be strictly observed in the affected areas. The nation has seen the devastation caused by avian flu in other countries. Certain strains of avian flu have caused human deaths. Full transparency and quick containment are critical in preventing the spread of avian influenza.

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