Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jakarta's bird flu levees

More fatalities on Monday but "Minister of Health Siti Fadilah Supari said that despite the growing toll, the situation appeared to be under control, and reiterated that there had been no confirmed case of human-to-human transmission" (The Jakarta Post). That's a relief. As long as you can't confirm something, it must not be happening. And maybe the mass killing of birds, urged on Indonesia for months but still not underway is good evidence that the jakarta Government is finally making some tough decisions:
The government said that it would commence a poultry cull in affected areas in the near future.
Near future. Hmmm. Judging from the plummeting sales of poultry and other evidence of public concern in infected areas, at last there is community mobilization to control the problem:
However, bird-flu free areas have not been so active in educating residents, particularly poultry keepers.
"We were only told by health officers to have ourselves checked if we came down with the flu," said Wiguno Adi, a resident of Jagakarsa, South Jakarta.

Community health workers in Cilandak and Pondok Labu, South Jakarta, said they had only been told to watch out for patients showing symptoms of bird flu.

"We are few in number. We can't go door-to-door instructing people to observe good hygiene," said a doctor at the center who refused to be identified.

City health agency spokesperson Zelvyno said the agency had told community health workers to meet with locals and reeducate them on good hygiene.

"It is up to the centers to allow time for the campaign, there is no special budget for it," she said. (The Jakarta Post)
No special budget? I thought "help was on the way" from wealthier donor nations, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization called for last week :
FAO is concerned about the spread of avian influenza in Indonesia and has offered further assistance to control the virus in the country.

"Avian influenza has become endemic in Indonesia and it is continuing to spread," said FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.

"In view of the worrying situation, it is necessary for the government to improve its virus control policies and strategies," Domenech said.

The fight against bird flu should become a national priority and veterinary and civil authorities should be provided with the full power to enforce disease control measures.

Local veterinary services should be strengthened to enable them to discover disease outbreaks at a very early stage and to immediately carry out control measures such as culling and targeted vaccination in high risk areas.

The national vaccination strategy should be reviewed to ensure that only quality vaccines are used, in accordance with the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) standards.

More financial resources should be made available for the control of bird flu in animals to prevent a human pandemic. Four people have died of bird flu in Indonesia and others are suspected of having the virus.

The involvement of the around 30 million backyard village households keeping around 200 million chickens would be a major challenge, FAO said. Major public awareness campaigns should be launched to inform farmers about risks and control strategies.
The global strategy for the control of avian influenza in animals remains largely under-funded despite important contributions pledged by some donors, FAO warned today.

"It makes sense to stockpile antiviral drugs to protect humans against a potential avian influenza pandemic, but at the same time we have to contain the virus at source, in animals, to reduce the risk to people," said FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.

"Strong national veterinary services are essential to improve the early detection of avian influenza. The rapid exchange and analysis of virus samples require additional resources to immediately respond to avian influenza outbreaks," Domenech said.

The Global Strategy for the Progressive Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza launched by FAO, the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2005, for control programmes in southeast Asian countries, has called for over $100 million for the next three years.

To date, donors such as Germany ($6 million), Switzerland ($4 million), the United States ($6 million) and Japan ($0.5 million) have pledged around $16.5 million. FAO will provide another $2 million from its own resources. The World Bank and the European Commission are also planning to heavily invest in controlling bird flu.

"This support is excellent, but it marks only a starting point and unless it translates into further financial funding to support affected countries, the cycle of bird flu infection that will occur in poultry this winter will not be stopped," Domenech said.

The circulation of so much influenza virus in animals in many countries in close proximity to humans remains a major risk factor that could trigger a pandemic, FAO warned.

There is still a small window of opportunity before winter to reduce the levels of infection through vaccination of poultry. In countries like Viet Nam it is the only way that the levels of infection can be dampened down in the short time available. It involves mass vaccination of poultry, especially in the smallholder sector where there is also close contact between poultry and humans.

"Countries in Asia are doing their best to control the virus but they cannot and should not be expected to do this job on their own," Domenech said.
Memo to George: Time to "pre-position" some bucks and technical aid to prevent the flu levees from being overtopped in Indonesia.