Indonesia could end up with a bird flu outbreak similar to that in China because the two countries share similar methods of poultry husbandry, an expert warned over the weekend.
I Wayan Teguh Wibawan, who researches animal health at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), said at a seminar on Saturday that Indonesian farmers, like their Chinese counterparts, sometimes kept livestock such as chickens and ducks in close quarters.
He said the problem was that animals slept, ate and defecated in the same space.
“This tends to facilitate the spread of the H7N9 virus,” he said, referring to the strain of avian flu that has killed 33 people in China since late March.
Teguh called on farmers to modify their practices, including by segregating farm animals and limiting the number of animals in one place to avoid overcrowding.
“The government should also work to increase farmers’ awareness and tighten monitoring,” he said.
There are no confirmed cases of H7N9 infection in Indonesia.
In China, scientists have reported the spread of the H7N9 virus from chickens to humans. The World Health Organization says it has no evidence that the new strain, first detected in patients in China in March, is easily transmitted between humans.
But because 40 percent of the 130 people infected with H7N9 did not appear to have poultry contact, the WHO is continuing to investigate the possibility of human-to-human transmission.
The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the current strain of bird flu could not spark a pandemic in its current form. Nevertheless, he added, there was no guarantee that it would not mutate.
[Updated on May 15, 2013 to correct statement that there were confirmed cases of H7N9 in poultry in Indonesia. There are no confirmed cases.]