Sat, 01 Oct 1994

Sujudi says no bans on Indians

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Health Sujudi said that Indonesia will not bar visitors arriving from India as the death toll rose to 58 yesterday due to the spread of the pneumonic plague which has afflicted 1,500 people in India in the last two weeks.

The minister said that visitors from India will be required to fill in forms concerning the state of their health and their itinerary in Indonesia upon their arrival.

"We feel there is no need to bar visitors from India or those who stop over in the country unless they are ill or suspected of being infected by the bacteria causing the disease," Antara quoted Sujudi as saying.

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

Visitors from India come to Indonesia via Bangkok or Singapore. These transit points are expected to detect if the visitors are infected by the disease or not.

When asked about actions by India's neighboring countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have taken some precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the disease, Sujudi said the position of the countries is different from Indonesia.

"It is understood if the two countries ban visitors from India," he said.

A long list of foreign governments have taken steps to guard against the sickness -- advising against travel to India and screening, or even barring, travelers and cargo from India.

Bangladesh, for example, has sealed off all but seven of the 33 land entry points from India, and health officials have started screening people and fumigating aircraft and vehicles coming from India to ward of the disease.

On Wednesday, Pakistan had already suspended cross-border train services, having previously suspended Karachi-Bombay flights.

The U.S. federal government issued a plague advisory on Thursday to all travelers bound for India, warning them to avoid areas of the country stricken by outbreaks of the deadly disease.

Sujudi said that he has directed all health offices in Indonesia's provinces and regencies to increase vigilance against respiratory disorders as part of anticipatory measures to halt a possible spread of pneumonic plague in the country.

To allay fears among the public, Sujudi said there is no need for alarm about the disease as 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 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 be preferably be avoided".

"The problem of the spreading of the pneumonic plague is now localized in the areas of Surat in Gujarat and has already been contained," B. Gosh, first secretary at the Indian Embassy, said.

Indonesian Ambassador to India, Sahala Radjagukguk, told Antara in India's capital city of New Delhi that none of the Indonesians living in India is infected by the lethal plague.

Radjagukguk said that currently there are around 50 Indonesians taking their post-graduate degrees in New Delhi. He added that an Indonesian school had been closed temporarily following the advice of the Indian government.

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


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

In a related development, Suheni Soedjatmiko, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said yesterday that the occurrence of pneumonic plague in Indonesia was first reported in Tanjung Perak harbor, East Java, in 1910.

"Now some cases of the plague can still be found occasionally in some districts in Boyolali, Central Java, and some areas in East Java and Yogyakarta," Suheni said.

Dr. Soeharto Wirjowidagdo, the head of the Jakarta Health Office, told The Jakarta Post yesterday that in June 29 people were infected by pneumonic plague in South Jakarta and 137 people were infected by the disease in East Jakarta.

Soeharto 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/09)