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Indonesia: Is bird flu dead and gone?

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  • Indonesia: Is bird flu dead and gone?

    Thanks to Crof

    Indonesia: Is bird flu dead and gone?

    A very interesting article in The Jakarta Post: Is bird flu dead and gone? Excerpt:

    “Bird flu? What bird flu? That was last year, right?”
    So spoke my rental car driver, commenting on the purpose of my June visit to Riau’s capital, Pekanbaru.

    He did not know that a four-year-old girl had died of the deadly disease a few weeks before my arrival.

    One of the managing editors of the Riau Post, the province’s leading newspaper, was not aware of the child’s death either.
    “I’m almost sure the latest bird flu fatality in Riau was in 2009,” the editor told me.
    Risk communication expert Peter Sandman once said that the level of media attention equals the level of public attention. The fewer reports the media publishes on bird flu, the less people notice that it is still around.
    In the public mind, bird flu has died down. Nobody pays attention to the once-global threat anymore – not even those who were in charge of controlling it during its outbreak from 2005 to 2009, when Indonesia was ground zero for avian influenza.

    When the central government decided to dissolve the national committee on avian influenza control and pandemic preparedness (Komnas FBPI) last year, people assumed the war against H5N1 was over.

    And when both the international community and the country’s leaders claim that Indonesia has done well in controlling bird flu, Indonesians have even more reason to dismiss the worry from their minds.

    Reality bites. The virulent bug is still around, searching for more hosts and breeding places to multiply, looking for ways to spread more rapidly, infect humans more easily and kill them more quickly – to accomplish the virus’ most outstanding achievement: high morbidity and high mortality.

    The death of the Riau toddler serves as a warning for us to remain vigilant. Yes, it is just one death. But it always starts with one. One is not unimportant, especially this particular one, because so much is still unexplained.

    “The risk factor has yet to be found,” says Askardiya R. Patrianov, the head of Riau’s Livestock and Animal Health Office.
    “We can’t explain how the girl contracted bird flu,” says Ernawati Balia, head of Communicable Disease Control at the province’s health office.

    Local media reported that no poultry living around the girl’s family home tested positive for H5N1. Her family did not keep poultry. The official reports of both the health and the animal health offices say vets checked everything that could serve as the virus’ host, from chicken droppings to soil, but found nothing related to virus exposure.

    “We have to carry out a scientific study to discover the cause,” says Patrianov. Askardiya believes that studies by animal health experts, virologists or microbiologists will determine the risk factors. Was it the air she breathed, the water she drank or the environment she lived in? Could the virus have been transmitted via a medium other than poultry? Is it the same virus strain or has it evolved or, to use the experts’ term, “mutated”?
    “Those are some of the key questions to be answered,” he adds.

    Solving the mystery would perhaps remind people that bird flu is still around.
    “Addressing chronic disease is an issue of human rights – that must be our call to arms"
    Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

    ~~~~ Twitter:@GertvanderHoek ~~~ ~~~