Indonesia Says Bird Flu Is Under Control; Expert Disagrees

By webadmin on 10:06 am Mar 04, 2010
Category Archive

Dessy Sagita

The government is claiming success in its efforts to tackle avian flu
despite almost half of all the deaths recorded around the world
occurring in Indonesia.

Bayu Krisnamurthi, executive chairman
of the National Committee for Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic
Influenza Preparedness (Komnas FBPI), told the Jakarta Globe on
Wednesday that although Indonesia was leading the world in the number
of recorded fatalities from bird flu, “the total number of reported
cases keeps decreasing.”

Since the virus first emerged in
2003, 138 people have died from infections in Indonesia, while the
worldwide death toll is less than 300. In 2006 alone, more than 40
Indonesians succumbed to the H5N1 virus.

In 2009, however,
there were just 13 confirmed deaths from bird flu, the lowest number of
fatalities since 2005. “The virus is still sometimes found in poultry
and occasionally in humans, but now people already know how to react
and respond to the problems,” Bayu said.

He said the improved
awareness was proof that the campaigns promoted by the government were
working well, and that people were learning about how to prevent
transmission and what to do in the event of an outbreak.

Bayu
said that in a bid to better integrate programs relating to animal
diseases that could be jump to humans, also known by the technical term
zoonosis, Komnas FBPI’s would be replaced when its mandate expired on
March 13 with a National Committee on Zoonosis (Komnas Zoonosis).

“What
we really need now is a stronger position to be able to not only make
recommendations, but also act on those recommendations,” he said,
adding that the finer details, such as the new body’s budget, were yet
to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Chairul Anwar Nidom, a virologist
with the Tropical Disease Center at Airlangga University in Surabaya,
said the government’s claims of success in controlling bird flu were
premature.

“It depends on how you define the word success,” he
said. “If it means we have made progress, then yes, we are quite
successful, but if it means bird flu in Indonesia is totally under
control, then no, we’re still far from being successful.”

Nidom
said that even though the number of human fatalities had declined in
2009, the virus remained endemic in poultry across the country.

“As long as the virus is still here, it still has the possibility to infect humans at any time,” he said.

Nidom
said bird flu persisted in the nation partly because the government’s
programs designed to combat its spread were disorganized and
inefficient.

“Each ministry works independently, while they should be working together,” he said.

“Bird flu is a very complex issue because it affects both the health and economic sectors.”

According
to Nidom, Komnas FBPI’s successor should be granted more wide-ranging
powers to make policy and directly implement it in the field.