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UN Helps Indonesia Chart 3-Year Bird Flu Plan


A group of international health experts has drafted a three-year program for Indonesia aimed at containing the spread of bird flu. The disease is now endemic among poultry there, and chickens are a common backyard feature in the country, which has suffered the highest number of human deaths from bird flu in the world. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

About 150 participants from 11 countries have gathered in Bali to help Indonesia improve its bird flu control measures.

David Nabarro, the senior United Nations coordinator for avian and human influenza, says the group has drafted a three-year plan to help Indonesia stop the H5N1 bird-flu virus from spreading.

He says the biggest challenge stems from people's close contact with chickens, which are common in private homes across Indonesia.

"One-point-five billion poultry, which seem to be suffering from quite large numbers of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza: that is clearly the big issue," Nabarro noted, "because it is ... bird flu in the birds that (is) then leading to humans getting H5N1 infection, and that is giving us the risk of the emergence of a pandemic virus. And we need a pretty intensive new drive in order to get it fully under control, and it will take probably a two- to three-year period."

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is helping Indonesia establish community programs to make sure outbreaks of the virus among birds are reported as quickly as possible.

John Weaver, the FAO senior adviser on bird flu in Indonesia, says the country has made small gains in reducing the number of human infections during the past year.

He says the key to controlling the disease is keeping people away from sick birds.

"The problem is that the disease is so entrenched that we have got a real endemic situation. So what we need to do is identify and then knock out these risk pathways," he said.

The virus has affected birds or humans in 12 of the Indonesia's 33 provinces.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 200 human fatalities from the virus worldwide since 2003, including 85 deaths - more than 42 percent of the world's total - in Indonesia.

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