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Ciptapangan Visitor
Indonesia's Bird Flu Reports Underestimate Disease
posted by admin on 15/06/06

Delayed or inadequate data on outbreaks make it difficult for international agencies to anticipate where the virus may emerge next.

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia's bird flu reports underestimate the extent of the outbreaks in poultry and are hampering efforts to fight the disease in a country with 1.3 billion chickens, an international veterinary agency said.

The World Organization for Animal Health last learned of an outbreak in Indonesia of the H5N1 avian influenza strain seven weeks ago when the agriculture department reported 789 poultry died or were culled this year to control its spread. Since then, H5N1 infected at least 17 Indonesians, killing 13 of them, and spread in birds as far east as Papua province.

``It's very important in terms of planning intervention programs'' to have regular, detailed reports, Antonio Petrini, deputy head of information at the Paris-based animal health organization, said yesterday by telephone. ``But it's very difficult to obtain'' in many developing countries.

Delayed or inadequate data on outbreaks make it difficult for international agencies to anticipate where the virus may emerge next or to know where to send animal health officials. Diseased fowl increase the risk for humans and create more opportunity for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form.

The H5N1 flu virus has infected at least 225 people in 10 countries, killing 128 of them since late 2003, the World Health Organization said June 6. Indonesia has reported one new human case a week on average this year and accounts for 29 percent of the fatalities worldwide and the most this year.

Poor Response

``Indonesia has among the highest highly pathogenic avian influenza risks and lowest capacity to respond,'' the World Bank said in a report released in the capital, Jakarta, yesterday. ``The H5N1 virus is now considered endemic in poultry in most provinces in the country, but surveillance coverage is limited and generally unreliable to detect outbreaks.''

In February and March, 45 chickens and a duck died of H5N1, Mathur Riady, Indonesia's director general of livestock services, said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health, also known as the OIE. In addition, 743 chickens were destroyed as part of control measures, Riady said.

The report was received by the OIE on April 24 and posted on its Web site. The outbreaks in the provinces of Kepulauan Riau and Irian Jawa Barat are the only ones in 2006 reported by Indonesia to the OIE.

``It's underestimated of course,'' Petrini said. ``I don't know the true number.''

Riady and his predecessor, H.R. Wasito, reported more than 360,000 domestic fowl died or were culled in the country last year.

Romania, Nigeria

In comparison, other countries' reports to the OIE estimate Romania's avian flu toll this year at about 652,000 poultry, Myanmar's at 507,000, India's at 415,000, Nigeria's at 374,000 and Azerbaijan's at 296,000. The worldwide toll this year is about 3.9 million fowl, compared with 1.6 million in 2005, according to reports submitted to the OIE and published on its Web site.

Figures for dead and culled birds in Indonesia this year and in 2005 aren't reliable, said Peter Roeder, an animal health officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Roeder spent about five of the past eight months in Indonesia setting up FAO's field program for avian flu.

``The virus is widespread and circulating,'' he said yesterday in an interview.

Initial Outbreak

Indonesia's pattern of communicating outbreaks to the OIE is typical of developing countries, where limited veterinary resources often mean reports are submitted weekly only in the first months after an initial outbreak and become progressively less frequent as financial resources dwindle, Petrini said.

``For sure, it's endemic in Indonesia, everybody knows that, but we don't have data week-by-week,'' he said.

The Southeast Asian nation of 238 million people has about 70,000 villages spread across 17,000 islands. Poultry are raised in the backyards of about 80 percent of the country's 55 million households, said John Budd, head of communications with the United Nations Children's Fund in Jakarta.

There is a ``significant financing gap'' as well as a mismatch between the government's national avian flu plan and the allocation of funding, the World Bank said in its report. The 2006 national budget includes 555 billion rupiah ($59 million) for avian flu, of which a third is for animal health and two- thirds for human health, it said.

``Surveillance and control in animals, which should be top priorities, are underfunded,'' the World Bank said.

The FAO wants to add three more people to its five-person team in Indonesia to bolster surveillance and infection control, and to liaise with communities and government officials, Roeder said. The Rome-based agency also wants to build community acceptance of the program and to station animal health professionals at nine disease investigation centers being set up across the country.

To contact the reporters on this story:

Jason Gale in Singapore at j.gale@bloomberg.net;
John Lauerman in Boston at jlauerman@bloomberg.net.


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