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Cotabato now bird flu-free

MANILA, Philippines — Cotabato has been cleared of avian influenza or bird flu.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Laurel Tiu declared the bird flu-free status of the province in Memorandum Circular No. 51 he issued on Wednesday.

Six cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza subtype H5N1 were detected in ducks in M’lang, Tulunan and Carmen towns in March, April and December last year.

Concerned local government units in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Soccsksargen field office and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) conducted disease investigation, immediate depopulation, cleaning and disinfection, movement restrictions and surveillance in the affected premises in accordance with avian influenza protection program guidelines.

The DA said the bird-flu free declaration was issued after continued disease monitoring and surveillance in affected farms yielded negative test results for influenza type A virus for more than 90 days.

The DA had earlier declared Camarines Sur, Davao del Sur, Rizal, South Cotabato, Ilocos Sur, Batangas, Capiz, Quezon, Aurora, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan as free of bird flu.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed Cotabato produced 1,044.86 metric tons of ducks last year, which is 3.9 percent of the total duck production in the country.

BAI data showed that seven regions, 13 provinces, 71 towns and 160 barangays remain affected by avian influenza.

Tarlac City and Candaba in Pampanga still have active bird flu cases affecting duck farms.