Indonesia remains a hot spot for avian influenza due to the continued presence of backyard farms and a lack of awareness among the city’s residents.
Agriculture Minister Suswono said on Tuesday that his office had intensified monitoring and enforcement efforts to prevent the outbreak of a possible pandemic.
“We are not yet free from bird flu … North Maluku is the only province which has been declared free from the virus. We have not received reports of person-to-person transmission, but we encourage residents to report any case to us as soon as possible to ensure better anticipation,” he said.
Avian flu, caused by the H5N1 virus, is now a global concern with 156 cases and 54 fatalities worldwide in 2011. Egypt had 38 reported cases last year — the highest number reported in a single country. Last year, Indonesia recorded nine cases and seven deaths, while in Jakarta, there were three cases with two deaths.
However, the recent death of a 23-year-old North Jakarta resident — the first case reported this year — has not deterred other bird owners around the city. Although the victim was believed to have contracted the virus from his sick pigeon, Suryo A. Wibowo remains close to his canaries and cockatoo he has kept for the past two years.
Suryo, a resident of Condet, East Java, said that although the expense has kept him from getting the birds vaccinated, he made sure the birds and their cages were cleaned every day.
“The virus infects birds in unclean environments. That’s not how I treat the birds,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, adding that he also requested his helper to wash his hands with soap after cleaning the birds.
Another bird owner, Agustiawan, said that he had not gotten his two bulbul birds and six canaries vaccinated even though the 2007 bylaw on poultry control stipulates vaccination for pet birds.
The resident of Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, said that he had heard of the bylaw but doubted that he would be penalized for not following it.
“The Jakarta Maritime and Agriculture Agency should inspect the poultry farms and slaughter houses instead of bird owners like us,” he said. “I believe that bird owners always maintain sanitation around the pets’ cages.”
Experts have repeatedly advised that direct contact with poultry could increase the possibility of infection, but the employees of a poultry slaughterhouse in Palmerah, West Jakarta, said that they never used gloves while cleaning chickens.
“We just wash our hands after working,” said Sukini, one of the employees.
Tami, the supervisor at the slaughterhouse, said that the threat of bird flu had not yet affected the meat’s demand.
“Every day, we kill at least 630 chickens,” she said. “We haven’t experienced a decrease in demand from our customers in the last few days.”
She said that the slaughterhouse had not undertaken any precautions against the threat of bird flu. “My boss did not instruct me to prepare anything,” she said.
The capital is on alert as the peak of the wet season brings with it a higher risk of infection.
Genes from the human flu could mix with the avian influenza inside the human body, creating an entirely new and deadly virus that is transmittable from person to person. The virus could rapidly spread among people, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012 ... reat0.html