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Indonesia Reports New Outbreak of Bird Flu - 2004-07-21

Bird flu has resurfaced in parts of Indonesia, prompting health officials to implement a massive campaign to vaccinate chickens. The latest outbreak follows a resurgence of bird flu in China, Thailand and Vietnam in recent weeks.

Indonesian agricultural ministry officials said Wednesday, the government plans to distribute as many as 300 million doses of vaccine to poultry farmers in a bid to halt a fresh outbreak of bird flu.

Indonesia is the latest country to report an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu that has hit Southeast Asia. Thailand, Vietnam and southern China also have reported recent outbreaks.

Earlier this year, the virus swept through much of Asia, forcing governments to cull millions of birds. More than 20 people died after contracting the virus from sick birds.

The World Health Organization says it remains concerned that the H5N1 virus could change to become easier for humans to contract. The agency is calling on governments to ensure that people involved in culling birds are well protected from the virus.

Thai Health Ministry spokeswoman Nitaya Mahaphol says her government is better prepared for this outbreak than it was for the first.

Mrs. Nitaya also notes that the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome last year helped prepare medical officials to deal with new health threats. "We have been very well prepared because of the experiences with the SARS and avian flu at the very beginning of the year," she said. "We have been training our health officials in order to deal with surveillance and prevention."

During the previous bird flu outbreak, eight people died in Thailand and 16 perished in Vietnam.

So far, the latest outbreak has caused no human cases, although health officials remain on alert.

The first avian flu outbreak disrupted the region's poultry industry. Thousands of farmers lost their flocks, and many countries around the world banned imports of poultry from infected countries.