Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Avian flu makes a comeback in Bali

Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Wed, 03/23/2011 10:55 PM | Bali
Dozens of chickens have died at poultry farms in Badung and Tabanan regencies as of Tuesday.
Putu Sumantara, head of the province’s husbandry office, confirmed that the dead chickens tested positive for the H5N1 virus that causes the deadly avian flu.
“However, we have not received any reports of human infection,” insisted Sumantara.
The first case of avian flu was found in Sobangan village, Mengwi, Badung regency, where 17 chickens died of the H5N1 virus between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8.
Between March 10 and March 18, more than 60 chickens also died in several villages in North Denpasar, Badung, and Tabanan regency.
“We have carried out several measures, including culling chickens, in some affected areas to prevent the virus from infecting chickens on nearby farms,” explained Sumantara.
The office was quick to respond to the avian flu outbreak, calling on local farmers to increase sanitation on their farms.
The H5N1 virus re-emerged after a two-year hiatus. The virus infected thousands of fowls in Bali between 2007 and 2008.
There had been no sign of the virus since 2009, until it reappeared in early February 2011.
“It is quite difficult to detect the emergence of the virus, whether it was caused by the current extreme weather or was carried by chickens from outside of Bali,” he said.
“We have already activated the Participatory Disease Surveillance and Response Team, which will first respond to any new infected chickens and humans,” he said.
Coordination has been set up between relevant agencies, including the husbandry office, the quarantine agency, ports, airport, health offices, farmers’ associations and traditional markets, to jointly deal with the fresh avian flu outbreak.
“Security at entry points will be tightened to strictly control inter-island animal traffic to Bali,” Sumantara said.
According to a gubernatorial decree passed in 2005, no chickens or other poultry are allowed to enter the island. The decree is still
in effect.
Saiful Muhtadin, head of the agricultural quarantine office, conceded that the office had frequently found poultry illegally shipped from outside Bali via Gilimanuk and Padang Bai ports.
I Nyoman Sutedja, head of the health office, confirmed Tuesday that there had been no reports of avian flu in humans. The 2007 and 2008 outbreak in Bali claimed two lives.
“We urge people to stay away from poultry farms. Balinese are fond of breeding chickens and touch them like pets, making them susceptible to the H5N1 virus,” he warned.
I Ketut Yahya, chairman of a poultry farmers association, said he had asked the association’s members to improve health and sanitation on their farms.
“All poultry must be vaccinated to strengthen their immune systems,” he said.
Currently, the association has 50 active members who produce 120,000 chickens every day for local consumption.

           © Kieron Nelson 2011 "Vanishing Cultures Photography"

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