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Chickens rule the world YOGYAKARTA - Earlier this month it finally came through - Jakarta was to forbid all chickens in, on, around, below and besides houses, huts and other structures - but since then not much happened elsewhere to reach the same effect. Of course that will not be easy. Not outside Jakarta but also not within the city limits of a city of 15 million souls. Whether the city is flooded or not, chickens will always be there. Just recently a small group of people started to understand that chickens and humans can be a dangerous combination. This are probably people which already lost someone dear to this disease with incredibly high mortality rates. For all the others they can't care less, they have to make some living from it. Without chickens no food and that is what the local government realizes.

Because of that reason, some earlier culling was organized to issue an incentive of a few dimes per chicken. Bought and slaughtered directly. Because the 'rubbish' had to go somewhere and throwing it away was regarded a waste, meat was handed out to the many people that had flocked to the site by then. They all wanted to have something for free because that was not something that happened a lot. And so it happened that these unknowing people - not their mistake, but the government doesn't seem to understand that clear rules and instructions regarding bird flu are desperately needed - walked home with chicken meat. There the meat was often put in a place to consume it a little later. Where it was doesn't really matter, it's kind of dirty to think about that as well; see it for yourself: maybe it was in a plastic bag on the ground for a few hours, or was the chicken put on a tiled working bench, chopped to pieces with blood flying around. Or even worse; it ended up at one of the local markets first where it, together with other meat, was waiting for a customer for hours before it was sold, including the flies.

That last is probably what happened most. Even if you don't need it yourself, if it's free there is for sure a way to earn money from it and for that, people tend to wait some hours here until they get one - or if possible more than that - of those chickens for free. They must be lucky that hygiene is generally a problem here, lucky because they know that these kinds of products should be cleaned and prepared properly before you can eat them. This gives the average Indonesian one point advantage over many people in Western countries. They buy everything freshly packed in a plastic bag, what happened with that they don't know and many of them will never know it as well, only that one who works somewhere in the chain from chicken-barn to butcher. An Indonesian will prepare it's meal hot enough, so all bacteria end up dead after a while. With heating the bird flu viruses are killed as well (at least 70 degrees Centigrade for a few minutes is sufficient). This chicken can be eaten without any risk, at least that is what we know about it at this moment.

That advantage that Indonesians have over people in Western countries, because why would their food be bad? Chicken is from a factory, right? Yeah, for sure that is the case (sometimes you should not even do any effort to change those thoughts and simply agree with it, that makes it much more easy) but one day it will happen that a contaminated piece of meat escapes from the factory and is sold at a supermarket. That random piece of meat is then prepared by hand and prepared. When that preparation isn't done entirely properly, it can just happen that when eating that meat, you will not only end up with a full stomach. Hygiene when preparing food is in Indonesia a problem as well, but because it's all much more direct (buy chicken, kill chicken, prepare chicken and eat chicken) hygiene may be one of the least problems here.

Free as a bird

However the government did actually start with forbidding all small livestock in the direct vicinity of where humans live, there is still a long way to go before this plan will be executed entirely. Even if paid slaughter of chickens - if they are given away afterwards or not is less important - then it will still be the case that many people don't want to give up their additional income over their little wage - if they have one. Chicken lay eggs and they are fairly pricey, so there is some money to be earned. The government has to do a lot more than just give a way some money every once in a while, because it makes sense that chickens that have been paid for, will be replaced by others which are not sick. The poor little man with some ducks and no chickens left doesn't know better.

Small livestock will be found within Jakarta's city limits for some time to come. Probably that is even too optimistic. The chance that chickens are entirely gone from the city landscape - or in any other place in Indonesia - are virtually zero, especially seen the situation at the moment. The total number of victims up to now are very small compared to the more common diseases like polio, malaria and dengue which run amok every once in a while and kill hundreds in a matter of weeks. There is simply no force to get rid of your chickens then. Understandably.

A typical example of holding chicken. Directly besides the ring road around the city of Yogyakarta is a barn full of chicken. The roof can be opened, so they can at least breathe. Only one chicken passing by on a truck has to cough in order for these animals to catch a virus as well.
A typical example of holding chicken. Directly besides the ring road around the city of Yogyakarta is a barn full of chicken. The roof can be opened, so they can at least breathe. Only one chicken passing by on a truck has to cough in order for these animals to catch a virus as well.

Cleaning of wandering chickens is not enough as well. If you look around you, you will notice that dead chicken are available at markets, that is something that should not be possible as well anymore. Now this happens to b caused by something related, so with the disappearance of chicken in the backyards, soon the available stock at markets will dry up, because they rely for the most part on this kind of supply. Transport of living and dead chicken and other small livestock is often done in ways that many see as 'inhumane'. That is right, because it are not the humans that hang upside down on the back of a motorbike with their legs roped together. Those are chicken. This is the missing link from backyard to local market, so you already guess it, this will stop too.

But for now this all is not actually happening yet and only a handful of people are dreaming about it actually happening. Circumstances mentioned earlier play an important role in this. There is simply nothing to worry about, so those chickens can stay as well. It is probably just waiting about what is going to happen. Dark clouds cast by the World Health Organization (WHO) tell us that a pandemic is on it's way, but there is no one to hear that, for the same reasons obviously. Only a few dozen people died until now, how sad this may be for the relatives, in fact there are not many people outside them who will worry about that for a second, and we all know that.

When an epidemic is forming eventually, the first dozens, hundreds of people get sick and report themselves in hospitals, not much will happen in the first place. People often fall ill and it probably takes several days before these people are linked to each other. How bad we want that everyone that is contaminated with bird flu wears a brightly colored cap, that won't happen and so it will be counting the ill in hospitals. Some of the precautionary rules that are already active - but as usual not obeyed to or even not executed as well - are probably pulled from a shelf and put to active duty for the second or third time.

Only when thousands fall ill in a matter of days and the always looking for death and despair media here smells that something is wrong there will be changes. The first days most of the television channels report about this event throughout the day; look, people are dying there! People all over Indonesia yell at Jakarta, or any other completely random place for that matter because bird flu doesn't know boundaries and doesn't hate people in a specific area although it might seem so sometimes. Politicians join in with playing panic. After telling the people that it wasn't so bad - those first thousand ill people - in the first place, it is getting serious now and they love to be on television if they have the opportunity, bird flu is for later. First hold a meeting over what to say on television.


Much further than the above description is where I get myself as well. Last month there was a run to the Sardjito-hospital here in Yogyakarta as well, for the first time. Several patients were brought in, they were suspected bird flu cases. Directly it became clear that the small group of people caused a run that was barely held under control. Family, friends and others showed up as well, because it was a relative of course that is in the hospital. Ooh well, was, because after a quick test most were sent home. Several people had to stay for observation. One six-year-old girl died, of bird flu. That is all fairly manageable.

But a more remarkable point, and if you read it, it is actually funny indeed, is that there was one man admitted to the isolation-department of the hospital. He was said to have bird fly as well, but tests still had to confirm that or not. Safety for everything and directly to the isolation-department with him you would think. That is actually what happened. But every once in a while mister had to smoke of course. He just wandered outside on the hallway and lit his clove-cigarette. After that just back quickly so no-one else will be sick.

See, that was kind of funny, but here it is obvious that not a single person does actually care about the entire situation. The population can not be held responsible for that, but staff of a respected hospital doesn't seem to know how to handle the situation as well. Instead of actually locking the door of the mans room, he was able to go wherever he wanted. Probably he had a little chat with one of the neighbors from another room, because they would love to have a smoke too.

So in fact there are chicken in the area that are not clean anymore, the already carry the virus with them. But unfortunately you can not see if you have a contaminated chicken walking around in your garden of course. Not even from the inside, they have to be testes, one by one. That is not possible for the little man of course, but meanwhile he just keeps his chicken which he grants the entire world. That is just what happens.

Around me at the moment are four chickens which enjoy themselves with playing around in between the freshly fallen leaves. They make holes at a spot in the shadow and every once in a while they produce recyclable material. It all in a chicken's life. A little later mother walks by, four little ones behind her. All in the same color. They also play with the leaves and produce excrement everywhere. In fact I should just kill them all, but then I will keep doing it and I will not make myself very popular here in the neighborhood.

No, cats are better, they seem to be able to contaminate each other just as easy as chickens, but at least they put their shit in one place and close it off neatly. However, that is not a real solution as well, because it seems - and that will be a next study which brings nice results for the run up to a pandemic - simple flies are able to transport bird flu as well. Well, I should not start about flies now, because there are already many chickens in Indonesia, but flies...

Posted in Health @ 10 February 2007 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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