Bird flu campaign fails to improve awareness

16-06-2006 | |
Bird flu campaign fails to improve awareness

A group of people from the North Sumatran village where the largest known human cluster of bird flu deaths occurred have killed a chicken and eaten it raw in protest against the government’s plan to cull birds in the area.

The Indonesian government has admitted that a public outcry like this indicates that its bird flu information campaign has failed to improve public awareness about the deadly disease, which in turn is contributing the nation’s high rate of human bird flu deaths.

WHO spokeswoman Sari Setiogi confirmed yesterday that a seven-year-old girl who died in Jakarta had become the nation’s 38th bird flu fatality after positive testing by a World Health Organisation-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong. The girl’s brother also died after showing bird flu symptoms but was buried before tests were taken, the Health Ministry said.

Public health experts have said the slow progress in combating bird flu in the country was due partly to the lack of coordination between the health and agriculture ministries.

World Health Organisation experts have also expressed concerns that regional administrations are not acting quickly enough to implement the government’s national bird flu strategy, faulting them for failing to initiate flu surveillance in at-risk areas.

The Health Ministry said that the government would opt to intensify its information campaign rather than enforce the 1984 Plague Law, which punishes people who refuse to cooperate with the government in tackling the spread of infectious diseases.