Asymptomatic bird flu-infected poultry
Indonesia has found traces of the highly pathogenic
bird flu in healthy-looking poultry. This creates a major obstacle in detecting
Clinical signs of bird flu
range from respiratory distress to coughing and
sneezing, to dead chickens. If no clinical signs can be observed - asymptomatic
chickens - the risks of the virus spreading are much higher, which also means
that humans can become more easily infected with bird flu due to the virus's
ability to adapt to new environments and hosts.
Indonesia needs to be particularly cautious, as this is the country with
the highest death toll from the disease, killing 79 people in total.
"The poultry death rate is not so high, but there is a trend that chicken
or poultry are infected by the virus but they don't die," says Musny Suatmodjo,
director of animal health.
While bird flu is essentially a poultry disease, scientists are worried
about the. They fear this increases the chances of the virus mutating into a
form that can jump easily between people, triggering a pandemic.
"There are some cases where humans were infected with the virus although
there was no sick or dead poultry in their surroundings. But it can't be a
general conclusion yet," said Bayu Krisnamurthi, the bird flu commission chief.
Hong Kong-based researchers have also detected such "asymptomatic" chickens
and other poultry in mainland Chinese markets in recent years, which they
believe were responsible for most of the H5N1 human infections there.
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