According to reports in the English-language Jakarta Post (26/1), the Director General for Animal Husbandry has publicly admitted that cases of avian influenza are present in Indonesia since August 29. Avian influenza is a deadly epidemic for poultry populations; it's variant affecting human beings is commonly referred to as bird flu.
While mentioning that cases of infection among poultry populations have been confirmed in 9 provinces, the Director General, Mr. Sofian Sudjarat, said that there is no evidence of the disease having spread to Indonesia's human population.
The latest statements from the Government are at variance with earlier reports that have attributed the death of millions of chickens in East Java and Bali over the past three months to New Castle Disease, which while deadly to poultry is believed to pose no threat to human beings.
Because the disease has only affected bird populations, officials are refusing to say bird flu exists in Indonesia.
The Jakarta Post suggested a possible cover up in official's handling of the disease when they quoted Mr. Marthen Malole, a researcher at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, who said the government had refused to make the disease public following pressure from certain multinational companies involved in the poultry industry.
Mr. Marthen has been involved in bird flu research in West Java since September.
Mr. Sofian Sudjarat has denied these charges, saying that laboratory test results confirming avian influenza only became available to the Government on Thursday, January 22, 2004.
According to the Directorate cases of avian influenza have been confirmed in 9 provinces and 17 regencies across the country, including Central Java, East Java, West Java, Yogyakarta, Lampung, Bali, Banten, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.
No human infections of bird flu have been identified in Indonesia, unlike Thailand and Vietnam where a number of human patients have been diagnosed and several victims have succumbed to the disease.
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