Sydney Morning Herald on the Bird Flu problem in Indo

The government has a military spending budget of 23 billion USD but no money to buy a bunch of infected pigs and chickens…Looks like we are making Bird flu incubators here. Lets hope the resistance we get from exposure to other bacteria prevalent here is going to be enough to raise our natural resistance to this bug.


Botched culls typify Jakarta’s flu paralysis

By Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
September 24, 2005
The lure of free entertainment on a sunny Sunday afternoon drew hundreds to a field near the Javanese village of Babat to witness the first mass cull of pigs infected with the deadly bird flu virus.

Adults and children milled around, watching animals being slaughtered, thrown into a pit and burnt with no sign of public safety precautions. The Indonesian Agriculture Minister, Anton Apriantono, shouted frantically to department staff to find if it was safe to remove his white mask to answer questions.

"Don’t blame me if you get bird flu because you don’t wear a mask. This is very dangerous, you know, as the virus can be transmitted through the air," he warned reporters that July afternoon.

Mr Apriantono was soon struggling to explain why only 31 pigs and 40 ducks from Tangerang region, bordering Jakarta, were being culled, instead of the promised hundreds of infected pigs and thousands of chickens.

"We only culled the infected animals as we do not have the money to carry out a mass culling," he said.


Days earlier, an auditor who lived nearby, Iwan Rapei, and his two daughters died with symptoms of heavy pneumonia. Tests confirmed Mr Rapei carried the bird flu virus.

Yesterday the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency demanded Indonesia improve its virus control and immediately start culling in infected areas.

In April tests at pig farms uncovered bird flu infections, but no cull was ordered. This week it emerged several of the 17 Indonesians in hospital with bird flu in the latest outbreak came from Tangerang or areas close to Jakarta.

The botched cull raises concerns about Indonesia’s ability to prevent a pandemic that could kill millions across the region.

The World Health Organisation’s regional spokesman, Peter Cordingley, believes Indonesia is now the "hot spot" for bird flu, and the WHO’s country representative, Georg Peterson, describes it as the "weak link" in global efforts to avert a pandemic.

Experts are seething. "They have spent a year saying they have it under control; this is bullshit," said one official working on the outbreak. "Indonesia hasn’t got it under control and the longer they go on not culling the bigger the problem is going to be."

Mr Cordingley said the WHO has known "for some time the H5N1 virus is entrenched in Indonesian poultry populations".

"Each time a human being becomes infected, we worry because one of the scenarios for this pandemic to start is if one person has the avian influenza virus in his body at the same time as the normal flu virus, [then] there is the possibility of genetic exchange between the two viruses."

Although tests had shown more than half its exotic birds carried the bird flu virus, Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo was kept open on Sunday for thousands of visitors, including hundreds of expatriates on a charity fun run. Several of those since taken to hospital were zoo visitors.

The Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, at first denied the possibility of human transmission, then stated it was inevitable and Indonesia was in the grip of an epidemic. She later reversed her position, saying the outbreak could possibly become an epidemic and called on the nation to increase "alertness" .

But Mrs Supari’s extraordinary flu alert was attacked by other cabinet ministers on the grounds it could harm tourism and investment.

This week Mr Apriantono finally announced culls in "highly infected" areas. But he later said more than 20 per cent of stock had to be infected for a cull order to be issued – and that no such areas existed.

Mr Cordingley said the problem was a familiar one in Asia. "There is no incentive for somebody who raises chickens to report infected chickens if he is not going to be compensated for the day government authorities come in and kill all his chickens," he said.

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