Indonesia boosts bird flu campaign for 2007

chicken AFP Don't be chicken: The Indonesian government plans to intensify its fight against the bird flu virus which has already killed 57 people in Indonesia. Photo: AFP

Jakarta - Indonesia, which has the world's highest bird flu death toll, plans to ramp up its fight against the virus and hopes to beat it by the end of 2007, a government official said on Friday.

Critics have said public ignorance, official ineptitude and lack of money are hampering efforts to stamp out the disease that has killed 57 people in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country.

But the head of the government's bird flu team told reporters Jakarta will raise funding, intensify its campaign to raise awareness of the disease, strengthen surveillance and restructure the country's poultry industry to minimise the risk of further spread.

"We have made some progress this year, but this disease is still affecting our animals and our people. We remain on alert," said Bayu Krisnamurthi, chief of the national committee on avian influenza control and pandemic influenza preparedness.

He said no new human infections of the H5N1 avian flu virus have been reported in Indonesia since November 28.

"By the end of next year, we want to see an end to new human H5N1 cases," he added.

Indonesia will raise anti-bird flu funding to $61 million in 2007, up from $46.45-million previously planned. It allocated $55-million for 2006.

Krisnamurthi said that separately the international community had allocated $65-million to help Indonesia combat the disease in 2007, compared to $35-million in 2006.

Although bird flu remains essentially an animal disease, experts fear it could mutate into a form that can pass easily among humans, possibly killing millions.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus has killed 157 people since 2003 and has spread from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

At least 200 million birds, the majority of them chickens and ducks, have died or been culled, costing farmers and the poultry industry billions of dollars across dozens of countries.

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