Wednesday, December 21, 2005

News - Jakarta Residents Are Targets in Indonesia's Bird Flu Campaign

Indonesia's planned door-to-door bird-flu surveillance will begin in Jakarta tomorrow, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said, bolstering the country's efforts to curb the disease that has killed at least nine Indonesians.

Starting Dec. 22, representatives from local communities, the military and student volunteers will traverse the nation's capital of about 9 million people to root out diseased fowl and pet birds in homes and backyards, Apriantono said in a telephone interview late yesterday.

``Hundreds of people will be involved and we will do it for as long as it takes,'' Apriantono said. He declined to say how much the operation will cost or how the government plans to fund the program. At least eight of 14 confirmed cases in Indonesia involved people living in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is under pressure to control outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu strain in birds that increase the risk of the disease infecting humans and possibly mutating into a form that's easily spread among people.

Human infections from H5N1 have more than doubled this year, fueling concern about a flu pandemic, which World Bank officials last month said may cost the world $800 billion to control.

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 71 people in Asia since 2004. There have been at least 139 human cases, including 95 this year, according to figures updated by the World Health Organization on Dec. 16.

Program Extended

Apriantono said the government's bird-flu surveillance program may be extended to other cities as needed. The Agriculture Ministry will hand out guidelines on how to cull infected chickens, he said. The ministry will cooperate with the Jakarta administration in carrying out the operation.

The government is working on a new measure that may ban people from raising chickens unless they are kept it in a coop to prevent them getting infected by migratory birds, Apriantono said.

``Many of the new cases occurred in chickens raised by families in their backyards and that's why it's getting more difficult for us to detect,'' the minister said.

The Southeast Asian nation has 30 million villages with more than 200 million chickens in backyards, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

``We have to do this gradually so that the new measure will be effective in halting the spread of the disease,'' Apriantono said. About 10.5 million chickens in 70 percent of the nation's provinces have died from the disease since the outbreak in 2003, he said. Asia


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