THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 has started monitoring employees of poultry farms in Central Visayas for possible bird flu contamination.

But while no confirmed case of bird flu among humans and poultry animals was recorded in the region, officials of DOH 7’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) said they are closely monitoring poultry farm personnel because of their direct exposure to domestic fowls.

Renan Cimafranca, DOH 7 regional epidemiologist, said they are coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 on their ongoing bird sampling in poultry farms across the region.

Aside from farm-raised birds, DA is also monitoring migratory birds, especially those in Olango Island in Lapu-Lapu City.

In a separate interview, DA 7 Regional Executive Director Dr. Salvador Diputado said that as of yesterday, there is no reported cases of bird flu in the Visayas, so there is no cause for alarm.

“For now, we haven’t received an official communication that we should be worried about bird flu here in Central Visayas… Since we don’t have reported incidents of bird flu, we should not panic,” he said.

Last Friday, a bird flu outbreak in a poultry farm in Pampanga killed some 37,000 chickens.

Bird flu or avian influenza is a contagious disease of birds caused by the H5N1 influenza virus.

It can be transmitted to humans through inhalation or contamination with infected discharges or feces of sick chickens or infected birds.

Signs and symptoms of bird flu contamination include cough, diarrhea, fever over 38 degrees Celsius, headache, muscle ache, runny nose, sore throat and respiratory difficulties.

According to Diputado, Pampangga Gov. Lilia Pineda said the bird flu outbreak in their province was aggravated by the poultry owners’ failure to report the bird flu cases immediately.

He reminded poultry owners that unusual deaths of poultry animals should be reported immediately to the authorities.

Diputado said that DA Assistant Secretary for Livestock Dr. Enrico Garzon Jr. already ordered a ban on the movement of poultry products from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao.

To prevent any outbreak in the region, Cimafranca said they will conduct random testing and sampling on farm workers.

If any of the farm workers are found positive of bird flu contamination, they will be brought to a government hospital for immediate quarantine and medication, he said. (JKV, Angel Mae Bellita, USJ-R Intern)