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Indonesia forms bird flu pandemic team

by 5m Editor
28 September 2005, at 12:00am

INDONESIA - Indonesia has formed a special team to prepare for any bird flu pandemic and coordinate foreign assistance and funding for the world's fourth most populous nation, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Indonesia forms bird flu pandemic team - INDONESIA - Indonesia has formed a special team to prepare for any bird flu pandemic and coordinate foreign assistance and funding for the world's fourth most populous nation, the health minister said on Wednesday.

The formation of the team under the ministry's National Pandemic Aid Plan follows the death of six Indonesians in or around Jakarta from bird flu, according to government laboratory results.

"Foreigners can contribute their aid through (the team), help with equipment and human resources," minister Siti Fadillah Supari told Reuters by telephone.

"Other countries have committed to help in terms of providing equipment, expert paramedics, that sort of stuff. We are concentrating on paramedic training and preparing hospitals."

Bird flu has killed 66 people in four Asian nations since late 2003 and has been found in birds in Russia and Europe.

Although there has been no widespread outbreak of the disease among people, Supari said Indonesians were becoming increasingly aware about bird flu, a topic getting blanket coverage in local media.

Experts' greatest fear is that the H5N1 virus, which has the power to kill one out of every two people it infects, could set off a pandemic if it gains the ability to be passed easily among people.

While they say the virus could have passed in a few cases from person to person among those who had had very close and sustained contact in the last two years, it has yet to mutate into a form that would allow it to do that easily.

Millions have died in past flu pandemics.

The World health Organisation (WHO) puts Indonesia's death toll from bird flu at three. By WHO standards, the final proof of bird flu cases rests on the outcome of a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test.

As of Wednesday, 19 people suffering possible bird flu symptoms were under observation at a Jakarta hospital designated to treat patients with the virus, said Sardikin Giriputro, deputy head of the hospital.

Supari said on Monday that 20,000 doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu were expected to arrive in Indonesia by Tuesday and a further 20,000 would come by the end of this week.

Some expatriates living in Indonesia have been flying to Singapore to get the drug because it is virtually impossible to buy in Indonesia. Stocks of normal flu vaccine have also run out, clinics popular with foreigners said on Wednesday.

The virus has spread to 22 provinces out of 33 in the Indonesian archipelago, killing more than 9.5 million domesticated birds since 2003.

Indonesia has said it would cull poultry in areas where the outbreak was serious, but little has been done so far.

Supari said so far there had been no confirmed cases of bird flu among humans outside the greater area of Jakarta.

"We have successfully awakened people's awareness about bird flu, which is a relief to me. When people's awareness about their health environment is relatively high, our job is going to be easier," she said.

Source: Reuters - 28th September 2005

5m Editor