Monday, September 19, 2005

Bird flu: H2H in Indonesia?

Because of my intermittent connections while traveling I have been unable to get all the details of latest developments in Indonesia, but the reports I see this morning are unusually ominous. Three children have been hospitalized with symptoms of bird flu, while at least 19 birds of various species have been infected in Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo, which is being closed for 3 weeks (Yahoo News). The children are reported to be between the ages of three and nine. Two have been in intensive care for 6 days. The third was admitted to the hospital yesterday. All have high fever. and respiratory problems (Xinhua). BBC reports that one of the children is the relative of the 37 year old woman who died of bird flu last month.

Indonesian authorities have been reluctant to take strong measures (such as mass culling) against bird flu, believing they could contain it. As many have suggested, this is a ridiculous misjudgment. Even WHO believes this is a vain hope. Regarding the zoo closure:
"It confirms what we have thought for a while, that the H5N1 virus is widely spread in Indonesia," Georg Petersen, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) representative in Indonesia said when asked to comment on the latest developments. (, Australia)
Along with southeast asia, this huge island nation is now a gigantic incubator for H5N1. In July a government auditor, with no detectable history of exposure to infected birds, died of bird flu as did his two daughters. Most observers believed this was a cluster of human to human (H2H) transmission. With the three children, one at least a contact with another case, the possibility becomes a probability. One can expect human to human transmission to become still more efficient.

Meanwhile, the US still has no final pandemic influenza plan. Like the generals, this government is still fighting the last battle, not preparing for the next one. Expect the pandemic flu plan, when it finally appears, to contain massive monies for Halliburton to rebuild the bird flu levees in Republican states.

Update (9/19/05, 10 am EDST): The Indonesian government is urging all tourists and zoo visitors to be alert for symptoms of influenza. Blood testing of zoo employees is being done. In addition, ChannelNews Asia reports:
Zelfino, Indonesia Health Ministry, said: "From our tests, there are two workers who appear infected with flu. They will be referred to Sulianti Hospital - one of the hospitals designated to treat the bird flu victims."


Besides closing the zoo and carrying out blood tests on all its animals and staff, authorities are also reaching out to thousands of residents living in the zoo vicinity.

They are encouraged to seek immediate treatment should they developed the flu symptoms in the past few days.

Anton Apriantono, Agriculture Minister, said: "We are urging those who recently visited the zoo to go to the hospital immediately if they display symptoms of avian flu, and all expenses will be covered by the local administration."