The Jakarta Globe, December 28, 2012
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi has revealed that there is a new strain of the avian flu virus killing tens of thousands of ducks in East, Central and West Java but no indication that the new virus affects humans.
The minister said the virus found in poultry across Indonesia has mutated from clade 2.1 to 2.3.2, affecting and killing ducks that were previously impervious to the old subtype.
“Previously ducks were considered immune,” she said on Thursday. “But the new clade is very deadly on the bird.”
This new clade has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of poultry in the three provinces but cases of avian flu-linked deaths in humans have only been attributed to the 2.1 clade. There have been nine deaths linked to the 2.1 clade of avian flu virus this year.
Nafsiah said her office is anticipating the possibility that the new strain would also affect humans by developing more laboratories to identify the new virus.
“Right now we are increasing the capabilities of laboratories. That means there shouldn’t just be one laboratory in Jakarta which can detect [the new clade] but also our network of 42 laboratories across Indonesia,” the minister said.
Indonesia has suffered the world’s worst human fatalities from bird flu with 159 deaths since 2003 out of 359 worldwide, according to the WHO.
In an interview with Suara Pembaruan on Wednesday, West Java agricultural agency chief Koesmayadie Tatang Padmadinata said there is no known vaccine which can effectively treat infection with the new clade.
The new strain “is still within the H5N1 [virus] family but this one attacks ducks. The old [clade 2.1] vaccine is being tested for its effectiveness to counter the new type of avian flu virus,” he said.
Koesmayadie said the presence of the new clade in West Java has been reported in Bekasi, Subang and Indramayu, killing at least 2,907 ducks.
The ducks infected, he said, came from the town of Brebes in the northern part of Central Java, the first area where the new clade was detected.
Emil Agustiono, deputy for health at the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare, said the spread of the new virus indicated a lack of supervision of poultry transportation within Indonesia.
“We can see that it used to be an isolated case in Brebes but quickly it has spread to 50 districts in nine provinces. This should not have happened,” he said.
Emil said there must be stricter control on the traffic of poultry and called on local officials to quarantine ducks suspected of being infected by the new virus.
“Ducks must be put in a cage at all times. Don’t let them run around and don’t touch poultry which dies all of the sudden,” he said.
Koesmayadie said authorities in West Java have banned duck sales from areas affected by the new strain of the virus “until it is safe [to resume sales] and the vaccine is available.”
No less than 222 officials from Koesmayadie’s agricultural agency have been deployed to monitor the health of ducks in the affected areas.
Minister of Agriculture Suswono said the new clade has created a nationwide scare, adding that a total of 150,000 ducks have died or been destroyed by government officials so far.
“The total [monetary] loss is estimated to be Rp 1.5 billion [$155,000],” he said, adding that the government will not compensate farmers whose ducks are infected by the avian flu virus. “For the 2013 budget there is no [money earmarked] for compensation.” But the minister said the government will ensure that farmers who lose their poultry to the virus get a break from returning their loans to banks. “We’ll even try to allow these farmers to receive more credit from the bank,” he said.
Suswono also said the government had stopped importing poultry from countries affected by avian flu, like Australia.
“Australia has declared that there is an avian flu epidemic. We will resume the import if the epidemic status has been revoked,” he said.
Emil told AFP recently that “there is a suspicion the virus has spread from other countries, possibly from Vietnam or Thailand.”
Health officials have told local governments to stop and check motorbikes and pick-up trucks commonly used to transport poultry, to try to prevent the spread of the virus. The Health Ministry has told local offices to be vigilant for more massive poultry deaths, or for deaths of people in the vicinity, its head of communicable disease Tjandra Yoga Aditama told AFP.
Bird flu typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans.
On Wednesday, more than 750 ducks from a farm in Bengkulu were tested, said the province’s bird flu mitigation coordinator, Erman Kuswadi. But to determine whether the ducks are infected by the new clade would require testing at a more advance lab in Lampung, he said.
( Give it time and this one will mutate also, than only God knows how it will end up!) siK.