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Indonesia Takes Steps to Stop Spread of Bird Flu


Indonesia says it will cull tens of thousands of chickens kept in backyards across the sprawling archipelago in an effort to stop the spread of the bird flu virus. As VOA correspondent Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta reports, the decision follows a new spate of human infections.

Officials said on Wednesday that local governments will issue new regulations banning the raising of poultry in residential areas. The government will begin a mass cull in the capital Jakarta and in nine provinces hit hard by the H5N1 virus.

It is common for residents in Indonesia to earn extra money or provide food for their families by raising chickens in their yards. Health experts say this is one of the ways the H5N1 virus is spreading among birds and causing infections among humans.

The coordinating minister for social welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, says many residents have been cooperative ahead of the planned cull.

"They're handing over their chickens, they're handing over their birds, they kill their birds themselves and they kill their birds themselves before the government take it away from them," the minister explained.

Indonesia has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus. It has the highest number of human bird-flu deaths - with more than 60 people dead, four in just the past week.

The World Health Organization says the virus has killed more than 161 people worldwide, the majority in Asia.

Almost all humans who caught the virus got it from close contact with infected birds. While it is not easy to catch, scientist worry the virus could mutate to one that could easily spread among humans, causing a pandemic.

The coordinating minister for social welfare says the country sees backyard flocks as a serious problem in halting the spread of the virus.

"The biggest obstacle we have already decided is the restructuring of industry especially on the backyard farming," he said. "We start with the banning … but we will make a special planning, the Indonesian government is preparing in one month a special planning for the whole of Indonesia."

In recent weeks bird flu has re-emerged in several countries including Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan.

The World Health Organization says the recent outbreaks show Asia needs to continue to be vigilant against the disease.

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