Fri, May 19, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Yudhoyono airs avian flu fears

THREAT The Indonesian president said that bird flu was a `formidable challenge' a day after the WHO confirmed it was responsible for five more deaths in his nation


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said yesterday Indonesia faces a huge challenge to stop further outbreaks of bird flu, which has killed 30 people in his nation.

"This is a formidable challenge not only because of its threat of a human pandemic that can decimate whole populations, but also because of its adverse effects on food security and poverty alleviation," said Yudhoyono.

Indonesia's bird flu death toll jumped to 30 on Wednesday after the WHO confirmed five more people had died of the virus.

Yudhoyono, in a speech to open a regional conference of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said countries around the world had responded to the fight against avian influenza "promptly and vigorously."

But Yudhoyono cautioned that more financial and technical resources were needed to fight it.

"Still, the stakes are so high that the FAO must never cease reminding the international community to give full financial and technical support to the fight against avian influenza," the president said.

Four of the latest deaths came from a cluster in North Sumatra. A fifth person was infected but alive. Two other people were also possibly infected in the cluster.

The fifth death reported on Wednesday was from Surabaya in East Java.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono, speaking on the sidelines of the FAO conference, said ministry officials would cull pigs and fowl within a 1km radius of the North Sumatra cluster once second tests on animals in the area showed positive results.

"Of course, once it's [confirmed] positive, they have to be culled. They will be culled ... as soon as possible, within this week," he said.

The vast majority of deaths in Indonesia have so far occurred in the capital Jakarta and its surroundings, where many people live close to poultry despite the urban environment.

An FAO expert said this week that public ignorance about the dangers of bird flu as well as poor co-ordination between various levels of government were the biggest obstacles Indonesia faces in its fight against the virus.

Indonesia has witnessed more bird flu deaths than any other country this year. It has the world's second highest number of fatalities since 2003, after Vietnam.

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