Thursday, August 10, 2006

Indonesia, Worst Affected by Bird Flu, Denies Lax Control

Indonesia, Worst Affected by Bird Flu, Denies Lax Control
Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia, which has the most number of human deaths from avian influenza, said it hasn't been lax in controlling the spread of the virus.

``It's untrue that Indonesia is hesitant to act, one that suggests we're hesitant to use our own money and that we're hesitant to perform culling,'' Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie told reporters today.

The world's fourth-most-populous nation yesterday confirmed its 43rd fatality from the H5N1 virus, surpassing Vietnam as the country with the most deaths. Problems enforcing measures to stem the spread of the lethal H5N1 avian influenza virus have led to more Indonesians becoming infected.

Some local government leaders were deliberately ignoring culling orders, hampering efforts to stamp out infections in birds, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on July 22.

``It's not that easy to cull because there are social issues that must be considered,'' said Bakrie, who is also the head of the nation's committee for avian influenza control and pandemic influenza preparedness. Authorities will continue to cull, ``like it or not,'' he said.

Bird flu has infected 55 people in Indonesia since July last year, according to the World Health Organization. Vietnam reported 93 cases since 2003, including 42 deaths. It hasn't reported any avian flu cases this year.

Bakrie said it is a challenge to conduct surveillance in Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, which has 70,000 villages across 17,000 islands.

Backyard Poultry

The virus has spread in poultry in two-thirds of the country's 33 provinces since late 2003. Poultry is raised in the backyards of about 80 percent of the country's 55 million households.

Since 2004, 28.93 million chickens have been culled, about 20 percent of which were backyard poultry, and authorities have vaccinated 262 million chickens, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said.

Experts are concerned the virus may infect people until it's controlled in poultry. The disease may spread to people in close contact with infected live birds, according to the Geneva- based WHO. Cooking kills the virus and no cases of transmission from cooked food have been recorded, the agency said.

Delays in finding and isolating cases risk exposing people to the virus and increase opportunities for it to mutate into a pandemic form.

There's a lack of trained personnel and equipment and many Indonesians are ignorant about the disease-deterring progress to control the virus, Larry Allen, senior technical coordinator with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a phone interview today.

``There's more disease outbreaks taking place than the central government is aware of,'' said Allen. ``It's a big problem out there but there's limited resources available to deal with it.''



To contact the reporter on this story:
Karima Anjani in Jakarta at kanjani@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: August 9, 2006 08:41 EDT

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