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Bird Flu Deeply Entrenched In Indonesia -- UN

Bird flu deeply entrenched in Indonesia, despite best efforts - UN agency

18 March 2008 - Despite major efforts to control the outbreak of avian influenza in Indonesia - the country worst hit by the virus - the situation there remains "grave," the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

Bird flu has become "deeply entrenched" in Indonesia with 31 out of 33 provinces being infected, according to FAO. The virus is endemic in Java, Sumatra, Bali and southern Sulawesi with sporadic outbreaks reported from other areas.

Just last month, five people living in the west of Java, Indonesia's most populous island, died after contracting the H5N1 virus, responsible for outbreaks of bird flu around the world in recent years.

"The human mortality rate from bird flu in Indonesia is the highest in the world and there will be more human cases if we do not focus more on containing the disease at source in animals," said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.

Mr. Domenech warned that the high level of virus circulation in birds in the country could create conditions for the virus to mutate and to finally cause a human influenza pandemic.

"The avian influenza situation in Indonesia is grave - all international partners and national authorities need to step up their efforts for halting the spread of the disease in animals and making the fight against the virus a top priority," he stated.

Among the major constraints the country is facing in tackling the virus are a highly decentralized administration, lack of engagement with commercial poultry producers and lack of resources for veterinary services and control campaigns.

"Indonesia is facing an uphill battle against a virus that is difficult to contain," Mr. Domenech noted. "Major human and financial resources, stronger political commitment and strengthened coordination between the central, province and district authorities are required to improve surveillance and control measures."

He stressed that the major challenge will be to implement the components of a successful national avian influenza control strategy. FAO is supporting the Indonesian authorities in areas such as effective surveillance, vaccination and movement controls of poultry and poultry products. It has also helped to train local teams of animal health professionals in disease surveillance and response.

ENDS

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