Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Government to bring bird flu under control by July

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government expected to able to contain the spread of bird flu by July as fewer provinces were reporting the disease, the Ministry of Agriculture announced on Friday.

"We have noticed only few provinces are still infected with the disease and the number of chickens infected (in the farms) is also decreasing. If the trend continues, we can fully contain the disease by July," animal health director Tri Satya Putri Naipospos said.

She told The Jakarta Post that by July, the government expected to be able to isolate the disease so it could not spread to other new provinces from the existing contaminated areas, including Central Java, Bali, West Java, Yogyakarta, and West Kalimantan.

The government would continue to monitor the movement of livestock and livestock products, especially in provinces where there were suspected new outbreaks, such as West Sumatra, Bengkulu, Bangka-Belitung, Jambi, South Sumatra, and several provinces in east Indonesia.

"We will continually keep an eye on these provinces so as to detect the disease as early as possible," Tri said.

According to ministry data, six previously infected provinces were free from bird flu by the end of March. They are Banten, Jakarta, East Java, South and Central Kalimantan, and Lampung.

By the end of March, 7.4 million chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons and other birds were estimated to have died from the disease. The Indonesian poultry population was estimated at 1.3 billion birds last year.

The ministry and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed on Friday the bird flu could have been brought into the country by illegal vaccines -- possibly from China, Mexico or Italy -- or through illegally imported livestock and livestock products that carried the virus.

As a rule, a vaccine is made from parts of a virus. Many illegal vaccines that come to Indonesia are processed in China and human error could have resulted in whole live viruses in the vaccines used in Indonesia.

A large number of livestock and poultry products also enter Indonesia illegally.