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Indonesian bird flu strain no threat to people

Indonesia’s agriculture ministry says tests showed a bird flu strain that had killed millions of chickens in the country could not be transmitted to humans.
/ Source: Reuters

Indonesia’s agriculture ministry said on Wednesday tests showed a bird flu strain that had killed millions of chickens in the country could not be transmitted to humans.

Tests conducted at a laboratory in Hong Kong to which Jakarta was referred by the World Health Organisation, found the H5N1 bird flu strain in Indonesia was different from in Thailand and Vietnam, said Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, director of animal health at the ministry.

“The genetics analysis showed that the DNA chain of our virus is similar to the kind in the Yunan province on mainland China, and different from Vietnam and Thailand,” Naipospos said.

“And we’ve always questioned why there are no human cases in Indonesia.”

But Naipospos said the possibility lay open for the virus to mutate into a deadlier form that could be transmitted to humans.

Nine Thais and 20 Vietnamese killed by the H5N1 virus have caught it from fowl.

Around 16 million fowl have died in Indonesia since the end of last year due to bird flu and Newcastle disease out of a population of around one billion, the agriculture ministry says.

The disease hit a chicken farm in Central Java last week, killing 350 birds. The carcasses were cremated to prevent the virus from spreading to other areas.

“It is not a new case as the area was affected last year,” Naipospos said.

Overall, she said, bird flu was under control but sporadic attacks might occur during the rainy season that usually runs from October to February.

Asked if the government could take firmer action by killing healthy chickens in affected areas, Naipospos said: “We simply don’t have the money for compensation.”