Mon, 03 Oct 1994

Council calls for vigilance against plague

JAKARTA (JP): City councilors have insisted that the government take anticipatory measures to avoid any possible spread of pneumonic plague which has afflicted 1,500 people in India over the last two weeks.

"Before it's too late, we have to be vigilant against any possible spread of the plague because even some of our neighboring countries have taken precautionary actions," said Ismunandar, deputy speaker of city council from the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) faction.

Ismunandar said over the weekend that to prevent the outbreak of the plague in Jakarta tight health screening at main entry points, such as the Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Halim Perdanakusumah air base and the Tanjung Priok seaport, is required on arriving Indians and travelers who recently stopped over in India.

Fourteen countries, including Singapore, have applied tight health surveillance of all travelers arriving from India.

Minister of Health Sujudi said on Friday that Indonesia will not bar visitors arriving from India. The death toll in India rose to over 50 late last week due to the spread of the plague, and Sujudi said that arrivals from India will be required to fill in forms concerning the state of their health and their itinerary in the country upon their arrival.

The fact that there is no direct flight from India to Indonesia, the minister said, is another reason for the government not to bar visitors from India.

Any possible carrier of the plague is expected to be detected at transit points in Bangkok or Singapore.

The minister said, however, that he has directed all health offices in Indonesia's 27 provinces and regencies to watch out for any signs of the disease, such as respiratory disorders, as part of anticipatory measures to halt any possible spread of pneumonic plague in the country.

Pneumonic plague is highly contagious and spreads between humans through contaminated sputum or breath.

H.M. Djufrie, deputy speaker of city council from the United Development Party (PPP) faction, concurred with Ismunandar about the need to take preventive measures to avoid the spread of the disease.


Djufrie, who is also a medical doctor, said that the government should consider the possibility of reintroducing the old policy requiring visitors to produce health certificates to officials upon their arrival in the country.

"If it is proven that the plague endangers the people's health then the government should reintroduce a policy requiring travelers, especially Indians and those who recently visited that country, to produce their health certificates," he said.

Soegijo, a councilor from the Golkar faction, is of the same view with Ismunandar and Djufrie on the need to take anticipatory measures against any possible spread of the disease.

"I think it is high time the government take preventive measures against any possible spread of the disease here because Jakarta is one of the country's main gates," Soegiyo said.

However, Soegijo said that the measures, such as health screening should be conducted with wisdom, "This is needed because not every person arriving from India is a carrier of the plague," he said.

The Indian embassy in Jakarta said on Thursday that not every Indian traveling abroad was a potential a plague carrier, adding that "rampant screening of Indians landing abroad should preferably be avoided".

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the killer plague in India was not likely to spread abroad and said the outbreak was expected to be over within three weeks.

The outbreak has spread from its epicenter near the western city of Surat across the country to Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi.

Dr. Soeharto Wirjowidagdo, the head of the Jakarta Health Office, called on parents not to panic if their children have any symptoms similar to those of the plague, such as coughs, runny nose and chills.

"Just go to the nearest clinic," said Soeharto, adding that certain penicillin strains, such as streptomycine, tetracycline and chloramfenichol, if given between eight and 24 hours after early symptoms of the plague appeared, could treat the disease. (has/03)