Indonesia to ban trade of live poultry in Jakarta

Straits Times 25 Mar 08;

JAKARTA - INDONESIA will ban the trade of live chickens in the capital in 2010 to sharpen the fight against bird flu in the world's hardest-hit nation, a livestock official said yesterday.

Poultry will have to be killed at government-licensed slaughterhouses outside Jakarta before being transported to the market, said Mr Edy Setiarto, adding that the authorities would need two years to prepare regulations and business owners for the changes.

Currently, many customers prefer to buy live chickens, which are then slaughtered to order to ensure the meat is fresh.

Mr Setiarto noted that 70 per cent of Indonesia's soaring bird flu cases occur in Jakarta and its surrounding districts.

Last year, city residents were told that they could no longer keep backyard chickens, but the order appears to have been largely ignored.

'The government will improve efforts to stop the spread of bird flu,' said Mr Setiarto.

Bird flu started sweeping through poultry populations across Asia in 2003 and has since jumped to humans, killing at least 236 people, nearly half of them in Indonesia, where 105 people have died.

It remains hard for people to catch, but experts worry the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, sparking a pandemic.

So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said this month that the virus was entrenched in 31 of Indonesia's 33 provinces despite millions of dollars in international aid.

It warned of an increased possibility that the virus may mutate into a deadlier form.