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Indonesia authorities say fewer regions are avian flu endemic
posted by admin on 30/10/06

Indonesia has recorded 55 human deaths from bird flu, the world’s highest number.

JAKARTA: The number of Indonesian provinces where bird flu is endemic has nearly halved in the last six months, although all areas on heavily populated Java island remain affected, a health official said yesterday.

Indonesia has recorded 55 human deaths from bird flu, the world’s highest number, and there has been no sign of a slowdown with the country now one of the frontlines in the battle against the virus.

“There were 30 provinces where bird flu has been declared endemic in fowl. In the last six months 14 of these provinces have reported no new cases,” Bayu Krisnamurthi, head of the national committee on Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, said by telephone.

The official said that under UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) definitions an area is seen as free of bird flu if no cases are reported in three months.

“We are always striving against the problem, of course big challenges remain in provinces that are not free (of bird flu) especially those with a high density ratio of population and fowl,” Krisnamurthi added.

He said all six provinces on Java island remain affected by the disease.

Three of Indonesia’s 33 provinces had never been affected by the virus, while there were 21 provinces where there had been no bird flu cases in humans, he added.

Bird flu has now killed 151 people in nine countries since 2003, according to figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be passed easily between people, leading to a possible human pandemic which could kill millions.

Despite a rising human death toll, Indonesia has resisted mass culling of birds, citing the expense and impracticality in the developing country of 220mn people, where the bird flu threat is not seen as a high priority by many.

Indonesian ministers did, however, commit on Friday to barring free-roaming poultry in backyards in cities.

Hiroyuki Konuma, deputy regional representative for the FAO, told a new conference on Friday in the Thai capital Bangkok he was particularly concerned about Indonesia.
“The virus is widely spread at the moment,” he said.

Authorities have struggled to control the spread of H5N1 virus in impoverished Indonesia, one of the world’s most complex countries spread across 17,000 islands and with myriad ethnic groups and languages.–Reuters

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