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EU Encouraged by Indonesia's Plan to Tackle Bird Flu


The European Union health commissioner, who is visiting Jakarta, says he is encouraged by Indonesia's recent commitment to addressing the problem of bird flu, but he says much remains to be done. At least five people have died in Indonesia of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, and health experts are worried that it will flourish if it is not stopped.

Indonesia in the past has been criticized for doing too little to tackle the disease, but has recently come out with new plans to address the problem in the fields of animal and human health.

European Union Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, who is in Indonesia at the end of a tour of the four Southeast Asian nations worst affected by bird flu, said he was encouraged by Indonesia's plans, but that further work is needed.

"What is really needed now is, first of all, that these plans become more specific and detailed, in particular based on the exact conditions now in Indonesia, and even more importantly, and more obviously one could say, the implementation and enforcement of these plans," said Markos Kyprianou.

Earlier this week, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for increased mobilization against the disease, and suggested that the army might be used to go door-to-door to check for infections.

The H5N1 virus has so far killed more than 60 people in four Southeast Asian nations since 2003, almost 50 percent of those who have caught it. Although it is so far not very efficient at infecting humans, doctors are worried that the virus could mutate into a form that can move easily between people, or between animals and people.

Indonesia has said that it can't afford to take the necessary measures on its own. The United States, the European Union and the World Bank have all launched plans to assist the Asian countries where the disease is most widespread, before it becomes a global problem.

"We have also not only offered solidarity, but also we are investing in our own protection when we help the affected countries," he said. "But it's their problem as well, and they will have to contribute through the national budgets as well."

The European Union wants to see more culling of birds in areas where infection has been detected, but it also admits than in some provinces, the virus is already endemic in the wild population as well as among domesticated poultry. In those areas, it wants more health and sanitation education to limit the spread of the disease into the human population.

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