FAO in Indonesia

Government and FAO Urge Public to Stay Alert for Bird Flu


Following recent developments on the Avian Influenza (AI) situation in Indonesia and considering the fact that Indonesia is still regarded as one of the hotspots for the spread of AI virus, the Ministry of Agriculture continues to pursue strategic steps to prevent poultry infections and reduce the losses to the poultry industry from bird flu. In addition, the Government urges the public to stay informed and alert to the AI threat.

An increase in outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), has again resulted in more poultry deaths in Indonesia since January 2016. It started with an outbreak in ducks in Bekasi District which was followed by the deaths of thousands of native chickens, Muscovy ducks, broiler ducks, quails, broiler and layer chickens in Jakarta, a number of districts in East, West, and Central Java, and in South Sulawesi. This reminds us that the threat of AI has not yet disappeared.

In February, the Director General of Livestock and Animal Health Services (DGLAHS) advised farmers on a series of measures to be taken to control HPAI in poultry focusing on eight key action points.

“These eight key actions points include raising community awareness to immediately report suspect cases of bird flu, implementing effective poultry farm biosecurity (3-zone biosecurity), vaccinating poultry with quality vaccine using the correct vaccination schedule, implementing improved biosecurity along the poultry market chain, adopting a more hygienic and healthy lifestyle, improving disease surveillance and outbreak investigation, as well as sourcing day-old-chicks (DOC) from farm compartments certified free from HPAI,” said Director of Animal Health Services, Dr. Ketut Diarmita, during a media briefing held at the Ministry’s office in Jakarta on 16 May 2016.

Dr. Diarmita, also underlined that a national integrated animal disease reporting system (iSIKHNAS) was now in place to facilitate rapid reporting from the field, and that cross-sectoral (animal health and human health) AI Rapid Response Teams were operational at the province and district levels to work with the Ministry’s regional Disease Investigation Centres to reduce the risks of AI spread among poultry and humans.

Although Indonesia had registered 199 cases of H5N1 avian influenza in humans, with 167 fatalities, between 2005 and 2015, human cases have decreased drastically since then. The Ministry of Agriculture had also recorded a decline in HPAI cases in poultry over the years, with a seasonal trend of increased cases during the rainy season.

Test results from the MOA Disease Investigation Centre, Yogyakarta showed that poultry deaths between December 2015 and March 2016 were caused by infection with HPAI H5N1 virus clade, which was introduced to the country in 2012 and has now become the dominant clade. It is possible that the increased number of HPAI outbreaks of late was precipitated by inadequate vaccination of poultry flocks, exacerbated by weather conditions fluctuating between extremes of heat and cold, thus decreasing poultry’s resistance to disease. In addition, farmers’ awareness of the HPAI threat has also declined, following the decrease in HPAI cases in recent years. Knowledge of improved poultry husbandry is still suboptimal in backyard poultry farms, while in commercial poultry enterprises, technical advice on correct and effective HPAI vaccination practices and implementation of adequate farm biosecurity need wider dissemination.

The DGLAHS, with support from FAO continues to enhance the Influenza Virus Monitoring (IVM) system, a network of veterinary diagnostic laboratories in Indonesia, to monitor AI virus strains circulating in poultry in the country. The results of antigenic and genetic characterisation of H5N1 viruses are uploaded to the web-based molecular surveillance system and platform, IVM Online, to inform government vaccination policy.

Another initiative of FAO and the government is to conduct regular environmental surveillance for avian influenza viruses at Live Bird Markets (LBM) in large cities such as Greater Jakarta, Surabaya, East Java, and Medan, North Sumatra. Environmental samples are collected from vending and slaughtering points in markets selling live poultry or slaughtering poultry on-site.

“LBM surveillance is important to monitor the dynamics of AI viruses and at the same time functions as an indicator of the progress of the HPAI control programme in upstream poultry production farms. LBM surveillance so far shows that high levels of contamination with H5 subtype virus are still found in sampled Greater Jakarta markets (up to 40% in some locations). LBM surveillance is also very important as it has detected the presence of avian influenza viruses other than H5N1 subtype, such as H9N2 and H5N2,” said James McGrane, Team Leader of FAO ECTAD Indonesia programme, at the same event.

The current increase in cases of HPAI and other zoonotic diseases emphasises the need for strengthened animal health services at all levels to protect farmers’ livelihoods and safeguard community health. In view of the economic losses caused to communities and farmers by zoonotic diseases, and public anxiety due to the threat of human infection, it is the duty of the Government to invest further in strengthening veterinary services across the country.

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