Indonesia reports unexpected spike in bird flu cases

Liza YosephineLiza Yosephine 16 May 16;

Amid reports that avian influenza ( bird flu ) is on the rise, the fight against bird flu appears to be failing more than a decade after the virus was first detected.

There were 148 cases of bird flu reported in the first four months of 2016 alone, a sharp increase from the 123 cases reported throughout 2015, according to Agriculture Ministry data.

"Lack of public awareness has been the main contributing factor to the continued circulation of the virus, especially among poultry farmers who don’t implement the right measures to control the spread of the disease," said the Agriculture Ministry's director of animal health services I Ketut Diarmita in a press conference on Monday.

Extreme weather changes related to the El Nino effect have left the poultry population more vulnerable to the virus due to declining immunity, he added.

West Java and Lampung have consistently reported the highest number of cases since the beginning of 2015.

The Ministry recorded 56 cases in West Java from January to April this year, while 26 cases were recorded in Lampung during the first four months of 2016.

Other areas to have reported cases of bird flu this year include South Sulawesi ( 20 ), North Kalimantan ( 14 ), Central Java ( 7 ), East Java ( 6 ) and Banten ( 5 ).

"Notably, Java remains as the region with the highest number of recorded cases, with ducks and layers the predominantly those to have been infected," Diarmita said.

Government monitoring indicates that the rise occurred during the rainy season, he added, citing humidity as the reason for the increase.

The ministry issued a circular on Feb. 12 to increase awareness of the disease, listing measures to be taken to control the HPAI, Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A ( H5N1 ), virus.

The government had hoped to raise key action pointers to address the issue, he added. Pointers included urging the community to perform three rapid actions ( detect, report and respond ), proper vaccination of flocks and to implement effective biosecurity at farm-level as well as along the poultry market chain.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the government is the fact that many commercial and backyard poultry farmers lack knowledge of proper maintenance in livestock farming and transporting, Diarmita continued.

The highest recorded number of bird flu infected poultry in Indonesia was in 2007 with 2,751 cases. This number was followed by 2,293 cases in 2009 and 1,502 cases in 2010.

James McGrane, the team leader of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO )'s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases ( ECTAD ) Indonesia applauded Indonesia's progress.

However, he urged the public to remain alert and emphasized the importance of applying the necessary measures recommended by the government, including implementing biosecurity and proper vaccination.

Ministry data confirmed that 199 people were infected with bird flu from 2005 to 2016. According to the data, 167 of those cases proved to be fatal.

In 2015, two cases of human infection were detected and both people died as a result of the infection. ( rin )

Indonesia struggling to curb bird flu by 2020
Liza YosephineLiza Yosephine 17 May 16;

Indonesia needs to improve efforts at both government and community levels in eradicating avian influenza to be free of the disease by its 2020 target, experts have said.

Around 40 percent of poultry products sampled at traditional markets in Greater Jakarta showed high levels of bird flu contamination, James McGrane, the team leader of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases ( ECTAD ) Indonesia, said on Monday.

The organization, which conducts joint monitoring with the government under the Live Bird Market ( LBM ) surveillance framework, found that most outbreaks occurred during transportation within the market chain.

"The government will have to invest more over the next four years if further progress is to be made on the eradication of the disease by the target of 2020," McGrane said.

Indonesia needs to focus on greater outreach and technical advice for poultry farmers while also continuing to monitor the circulation of the virus. Furthermore, the government needs to ensure that locally produced vaccines are well matched and give good protection, he added.

The implementation of biosecurity in the market chain as well as on poultry farms, which separates areas into three zones – dirty, intermediate and clean – has proven successful in keeping avian influenza out of farms.

"[A] combination of good vaccination and improved farm biosecurity can assist poultry farmers to protect their flocks and to maintain their profits and the profitability of their farms," McGrane said.

The center will continue to work together with the government as a new USAID-supported program has recently been implemented to assist in addressing the issue.

Aside from bird flu, the latest program called Emerging Pandemic Threats ( EPT-2 ) will focus on the investigation and detection of other disease threats that may emerge in the wildlife, livestock and human interface across the nation in the next four years, McGrane said.

The Agriculture Ministry's director of animal health services I Ketut Diarmita said the government realized that it needed an extreme change of strategy in order to be free of bird flu by 2020.

He noted that farmers' awareness of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza ( HPAI ) threat had reduced in recent years, leading to negligence in maintenance.

Knowledge of improved poultry husbandry was also still low in backyard and commercial poultry farms, he said. The ministry acknowledged the low awareness of correct and effective vaccination practices and implementing adequate farm biosecurity.

"There needs to be consistency and an approach with a focus of eradication systematically per region," Diarmita said.

However, the government cannot afford to conduct mass depopulation in poultry farms as complete monetary compensation to farmers cannot be determined.

Recent data showed an unexpected increase in poultry infected by the HPAI subtype H5N1 in Indonesia, with 148 cases detected in the first four months of 2016, a rise from 123 cases throughout the whole of 2015.

The increased rate is due to inadequate vaccination of poultry flocks, which is exacerbated by extreme weather changes that decreases poultry's resistance to disease, Diarmita said. ( rin )