Sep 24, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – An agriculture ministry official in Indonesia who spoke yesterday at a pandemic planning conference for businesses said the number of poultry outbreaks caused by the H5N1 avian influenza virus is declining.
Muhammad Azhar, the agriculture ministry's avian influenza control coordinator, said only 2 of Indonesia's 31 provinces have not been hit by the virus, but pointed out that 9 provinces have gone 6 months without reporting any new outbreaks, the Jakarta Post reported today.
"Areas still at risk are those on Java Island, because it is the main producer of both pedigree and nonpedigree chickens," he said, according to the report.
In March, a representative from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that H5N1 virus levels in Indonesia's poultry are so high that conditions might be ripe for viral mutation that could start an influenza pandemic, according to previous reports. The FAO has said the disease is endemic in Java, Sumatra, and southern Sulawesi islands.
The FAO has said the country needs more resources and better coordination to improve surveillance and control of the virus, and that by June that organization hoped to train more than 2,000 response teams to work in more than 300 of Indonesia's 448 districts.
A health minister who spoke at the conference said the number of human H5N1 cases has also declined this year, the Post reported. Erna Tresnaningsih, the health ministry's director for animal-vector diseases, said Indonesia has recorded 20 H5N1 cases and 17 fatalities from the disease so far this year. She said the number appears to trail the numbers seen in 2006 (55 cases and 45 deaths) and 2007 (42 cases and 37 deaths).
"Praise be to God, with good partnership, we've been able to push the figures," Tresnaningsih told the group, according to the Post report.
In other developments, US officials in Kyrgyzstan on Sep 15 launched a new avian influenza prevention program called STOP AI for the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, according to a press release from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
William Frej, USAID's regional mission director for central Asia, said at the opening ceremony in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, "This project will help central Asia's governments and poultry producers protect their citizens and economies from the serious consequences that can result from even a limited outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza."
Countries in central Asia import large quantities of poultry from countries that have reported outbreaks, including China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the USAID statement said. In March 2006 Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan reported H5N1 outbreaks.
USAID's STOP AI program provides export assistance and resources for planning, surveillance, control, and disease prevention, the statement said. It also focuses on economic recovery after an outbreak and safety measures for animal health workers and other response personnel.
The project included a 5-day training session for 25 veterinary and health workers from five central Asian countries, according to the USAID statement. Topics included procedures for avian influenza diagnosis and decontamination and the collection, storage, and transportation of virus samples. USAID said its goal is to enable the participants to train their colleagues upon return to their home countries.
Elsewhere, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently cohosted an avian influenza workshop in Gambia for veterinarians in African countries including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, AllAfrica News reported yesterday.
Kekoi Kuyateh, a Gambian agriculture secretary, said the USDA has helped Gambia and other countries build avian influenza prevention capacity by providing personal protective equipment, sampling supplies, and diagnostic kids, the AllAfrica report said.
Ten African countries have reported H5N1 outbreaks, including Togo, which reported outbreaks in early September.
Mar 18 CIDRAP News story "FAO: H5N1 levels in Indonesia raise pandemic risk"