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Thursday 27th October 2016

Indonesia needs help with bird flu

25th March 2008

The United Nations' top veterinary expert has called for more resources to be aimed at preventing avian influenza infections in humans in Indonesia.


The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)'s chief veterinary officer says the country needs more help if it is to rein in the virus and prevent it from mutating to form a strain which can pass between humans, potentially causing the next pandemic influenza.

The FAO's top vet, Joseph Domenech said Indonesia's human mortality figures from bird flu had risen to 100 at the beginning of this year.

He said more human cases would follow if the world did not focus more on containing the disease at source.

While most of Indonesia's human bird flu cases can be traced back to contact with infected poultry, experts fear a mutated form of the H5N1 virus, which has ripped through poultry flocks in Asia and Africa since 2003, could spark a pandemic, killing millions around the world.

They are watching the virus carefully for signs of such mutations.

Domenech said the avian influenza situation in Indonesia was "grave", and he called for all international partners and national authorities to step up efforts to halt the spread of the disease in animals and make the fight against the virus a top priority.

He expressed concerns that the high level of virus circulation in birds in Indonesia could create conditions for the virus to mutate and to finally cause a human influenza pandemic.

Birds in 31 out of 33 provinces were affected by the virus, although health teams were working in 193 out of 448 districts in Indonesia, he said.

According to the FAO, the virus is endemic in Java, Sumatra, Bali and southern Sulawesi with sporadic outbreaks reported from other areas.

Domenech said Indonesia was facing an uphill battle against a virus that is difficult to contain. Major human and financial resources, stronger political commitment and strengthened co-ordination between the central, provincial and district authorities were required to improve surveillance and control measures, he added.

Since the H5N1 virus emerged in southeast Asia in late 2003, it has claimed more than 220 lives around the world.

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