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Ciptapangan Visitor
Indonesian to fight bird flu
posted by admin on 16/08/06

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 (Jakarta):

Indonesia's President vowed on Wednesday to boost funding to fight bird flu, saying the country hardest hit by the disease needed to improve surveillance and stock up on anti-viral medicine.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made his comments to Parliament as health officials awaited laboratory test results for a 9-year-old girl who died this week with symptoms of the disease.

If they are positive, the child will be the 45th person in Indonesia to die from the H5N1 virus in just over a year.

"We have to improve surveillance efforts against bird flu and strengthen our regional laboratory abilities," Yudhoyono said, adding that the country also has to stock up on anti-viral medicine and self-protection gear.

Sparking a pandemic

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 139 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003 with Indonesia tallying the highest toll, according to the World Health Organization.

Most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus, which remains hard for people to catch, will mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.

Indonesia has come under fire for doing too little to stamp out the virus in poultry. Slaughtering often isn't carried out following outbreaks, vaccination is spotty and surveillance is weak.

Yudhoyono said the government would increase its budget for health from $ 1.5 billion (€1.17 billion) in 2006 to $ 1.7 billion (€1.3 billion) next year so the country could better fight communicable diseases, "especially bird flu." (AP)

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