Africa, China, Indonesia, underreport bird flu - OIE
ROME (Reuters) - China, Indonesia and African nations do not give international bodies full reports on bird flu outbreaks because they lack funds to monitor the disease, a World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) expert said on Wednesday.

The deadly H5N1 virus has killed 127 people since it re-emerged in Asia in late 2003, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It has spread especially fast in the past six months, moving into the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

"We think the countries may be underreporting, but they do not do it deliberately," the OIE's avian influenza coordinator, Christianne Bruschke, told a news conference. "We are concerned about China, Indonesia and Africa," she said.

Bruschke said weak veterinary services, poor financing in general and lack of financial incentives for farmers to report the poultry disease in the two Asian countries and in Africa are to blame for the underreporting.

She said that in many cases farmers were not aware of the disease and the necessity to report it. They should be educated and given financial compensation for culling birds, otherwise they would continue to breed and sell them, spreading the virus.

In Indonesia, where in some regions the virus has become endemic, or a permanent feature, it has become more difficult to report separate outbreaks, she said.

"That might be a reason that there is a higher virus presence in certain regions than we know," she told reporters on the sidelines of a bird flu conference in Rome, organised by the OIE and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease. But a sudden flurry of human bird flu cases in Indonesia has raised concern about virus mutation and human-to-human transmission.

In China, the huge size of the country and the lack of good diagnostic facilities add to the problems in reporting bird flu outbreaks, Bruschke said.

In Africa, where bird flu experts see a threat of the virus becoming endemic, veterinary services are very weak, many countries do not have enough laboratories, and farmers are not motivated to cull poultry and report the disease.

"In Africa we have all ingredients present that lead to underreporting," she said.