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Bird flu strikes back in Indonesia

Avian flu has returned in Indonesia. Several regions have recently reported outbreaks. Though no one has yet died after the virus' reappearance, bird flu must not be taken lightly.

Indications of the outbreaks were easily detected as they followed the national and global alert textbook. Hundreds of chicken suddenly died in Deli Serdang regency in North Sumatra, Surakarta, Central Java and Garut regency, West Java. Five people also displayed flu symptoms soon after hundreds of poultry in their neighborhoods died.

This time the local governments have responded quickly, taking all necessary preliminary measures, including intensifying supervision, distributing brochures on how to deal with the virus and preparing medicine in case the virus infects humans. A mass culling of infected fowl and the restriction of poultry distribution were ordered in Deli Serdang. Disinfectant was sprayed in areas where chickens were suspected to have died from the virus.

Local authorities have learned from their previous mistakes, when a combination of a lack of awareness and misinformation turned the virus into a ruthless harbinger of death.

The World Health Organization has underlined that the fight against avian influenza should involve agricultural officials and farmers as the virus infects animals in the first place. The world body said that a good response to H5N1 would require active surveillance of animals to rapidly detect cases, solid diagnosis, fair compensation for farmers who have to cull birds and public information and education programs. 

In many cases, bird flu struck after poultry farmers failed to change their business-as-usual mindset, despite repeated epidemics. The farmers remained unaware of hygiene and maintained their traditional backyard chicken pens until their livestock grew sick and died.

Indonesia has pledged to eliminate the H5N1 virus by 2014, but the goal may not be achieved without major changes.

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