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Indonesia Facing Massive Hurdles Against Bird Flu

Indonesia is among countries in the world facing the biggest difficulties in fighting deadly bird flu, a top United Nations official said Wednesday . Hassan El Bushra said it topped the 'acute outbreak' list of nations, alongside Egypt and Turkey, where avian influenza remains a big problem. Indonesia is the worst hit from the deadly H5N1 virus, recording 79 deaths from 99 human cases detected since bird flu broke out two years ago in all but two of its 33 provinces.

El Bushra, regional adviser with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) communicable disease team, said economic reasons made the virus especially difficult to contain in Indonesia. Culling thousands of chickens to stop an outbreak from spreading means big losses for poultry farmers and backyard chicken rearers.

'It is quite an economic loss, especially when (paying) compensation is a problem,' El Bushra told reporters as OIC health officials met ahead of a ministerial gathering Thursday. 'People there cannot understand why you should cull all the poultry in the whole village when only one person is found sick.'

Better disease prevention among farmers is also necessary to fight bird flu. 'It is a matter of changing the mentality of people and to make them really understand the disease,' El Bushra added. Malaysia chairs the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an association of 56 Islamic states who co-operate in economic, social and political matters.

The gathering is being attended by officials from the United Nations and other international agencies to discuss major health concerns facing OIC member states, whose members, in 2005, accounted for 21 percent of the world's population. Bird flu has infected 312 people worldwide. The OIC health ministers are expected to issue a declaration at the close of the conference Friday southwest of Kuala Lumpur.


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