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Indonesia makes new efforts to curb spread of bird flu JAKARTA - In a bid to stem a surge in human deaths from the H5N1 virus (bird flu), the Indonesian government will slaughter hundreds of thousands of backyard chickens over the next week, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said here Wednesday. This is a new and concrete measure taken by the Indonesian government in facing with a critical situation since several bird flu patents died recently. But the policy has met with different reaction and opposition from owners of fowls.

Siti Fadilah Supari said the policy was taken to anticipate a bird flu outbreak, citing that the spread of the H5N1 virus among fowls and humans in the past few weeks had led to an emergency situation. Local governments will issue regulations banning the rearing of poultry in residential areas, signaling a more forceful approach in the nation worst hit by the virus, she added.

She said owners would receive compensation of just under 1.50 U. S. dollars per bird, with the main focus of the cull in the capital, Jakarta, Banten and West Java provinces and densely populated areas where most of Indonesia's human infections have occurred. Entering 2007, many bird flu cases have been found again in the country. Since the outbreak of this disease in 2005, some 79 patients have been confirmed to be infected with the virus. Of the total, 61 died, contributing the greatest number to the world's total death toll of 161.

Experts have warned international community of the risks of the disease should Indonesia fail to prevent the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from spreading. To realize the central government's new approach, city officials have begun mapping poultry populations in Jakarta. Jakarta Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo said officials were focusing on neighborhoods where people had caught the H5N1 virus and those where birds were thought to be infected. "The fowls from these neighborhoods will all be slaughtered," Fauzi stressed.

Earlier, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso called on city residents to voluntarily slaughter all backyard fowls - especially chickens, ducks and pigeons - to curb the spread of bird flu. Four people have died of bird flu in Jakarta during the past week. Most of the victims were believed to have had contact with infected birds. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has also taken part in dealing with bird flu cases in the country by mobilizing 2,460 volunteers from 82 PMI branches in 10 provinces which are considered vulnerable to bird flu outbreaks.

The ten provinces are Jakarta, Banten, West Java, Central Java, North Sumatera, East Java, West Sumatera, South Sulawesi, Bali and Aceh which are considered prone to bird flu outbreaks. The volunteers are expected to launch campaigns on efforts to prevent the spread of the Avian Influenza virus to humans. "Through community awareness, we hope the people would be vigilant against bird flu without panic," head of PMI's Division for Social and Health Services Lita Sarana said recently.

The campaigns include programs on providing information to the people on how to live healthily, community based surveillance and biosecurity. Community awareness should cover four groups, namely, backyard farmers, house wives, chicken traders at traditional markets and children. On community-based surveillance, PMI provided training to village health volunteers on efforts of quick response to bird flu cases found in their respective areas.

However, officials in the neighboring municipality of Bogor are protesting the plan as unrealistic and too expensive. Herlien Krisnaningsih from the Bogor Agribusiness Agency said the central government's plan was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction. "We are not ready yet to carry out the central government's call because it will be extremely costly, and we believe it will discourage officers in the field who are struggling to prevent the virus from spreading."

Herlien also said she had not received any instructions to carry out the culls from the central government. A city councilor, Teguh Riyanto, said the government's plan would hurt poultry farmers. "But we'd better not panic because this will also affect the poultry business. We don't want all the chickens in this country slaughtered and replaced by imported fowls," he said.

Observers here held that whatever the measures taken to deal with bird flu cases, the government and all relevant parties should be consistent in applying rules in efforts to overcome the deadly cases. Coordinator for the Indonesian Poultry Forum, Don P Utoyo, said bird flu cases were still found in the country because the government and relevant parties as well as the people have yet to pay constant attention to the problem.

Utoyo however hailed the government's initiative to ban backyard farming in residential areas in an effort to eradicate the bird flu virus. "It indeed takes time but the most important thing is consistency in dealing with the spread of the fatal virus," Utoyo said. In 2007, the government set a budget of 61 million U.S. dollars for bird flu control, which was higher than the 2005 budget of 55 million U.S. dollars.

"The increase in the budget for bird flu control is expected to boost efforts in dealing with the spread of the H5N1 virus under the 2007 bird flu control program," a official from the Health Ministry said.

Link to related event Related event:
Bird flu in Indonesia

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14 January 2007 · Two more die from bird flu in Indonesia
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09 January 2007 · Bird flu raises its head again in Indonesia

Posted in Bird Flu @ 18 January 2007 09:03 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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