New Bird Flu Has the Potential to Infect Humans, Ministry of Health Urges Public to be Cautious

New Bird Flu Has the Potential to Infect Humans, Ministry of Health Urges Public to be Cautious (photo: - AP)

The Ministry of Health (Kemenkes) in Indonesia is warning of the potential for a new strain of bird flu, Clade Baru, to infect humans, following the discovery of cases that have attacked poultry in South Kalimantan.

While no reports of human transmission have been made, the government is urging caution, with Maxi Rein Rondonuwu, Director General for Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health, stating that early warning systems have been heightened.

Though the risk of infection in humans is still considered low, the Ministry has issued a circular requiring all provincial health departments, district health offices, and health quarantine offices throughout Indonesia to coordinate and cooperate with agencies responsible for animal health functions and other relevant sectors in preventing and controlling bird flu in humans.

These departments are also asked to prepare healthcare facilities to handle suspected bird flu cases following established guidelines and to increase the capacity of laboratories for testing samples from suspected bird flu cases.

“Surveillance activities and rapid response teams (TGCs), especially in detecting epidemiological signals in the field, also need to be increased,” Rein Rondonuwu said.

The Ministry is also urging sentinel surveillance areas for influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) to increase early warning efforts for detecting suspected bird flu cases in areas where an avian influenza outbreak has occurred in poultry.

When a suspected case of bird flu is found, the community health center must report it to the district health office within 24 hours via the Incident-Based Surveillance System and the Early Warning and Response System.

The Provincial and District/City Health Departments must also report it within 24 hours to the PHEOC of the Directorate General for Prevention and Control of Disease. Coordination with local agencies responsible for animal health functions is also required.

To prevent the spread of bird flu, the Director General has instructed the Health Quarantine Office to increase monitoring of domestic and foreign travelers at ports, airports, and land borders.

“Conducting examinations and handling cases if travelers with ILI symptoms are found following applicable guidelines. Conducting socialization and coordination with all cross-sector agencies working in the area of the KKP,” Rein Rondonuwu added.

The Ministry is urging the public to practice good hygiene and immediately report to the animal husbandry office if there are sudden and large numbers of poultry deaths in their area, seek medical attention promptly if they experience bird flu symptoms, and have a history of contact with risk factors.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, Head of the Ministry’s Communication and Public Service Bureau, says that efforts to prevent the spread of Clade Baru bird flu in Indonesia will be focused on areas related to poultry and wild animals.

The Ministry has also coordinated with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to address bird flu.

Earlier, the Ministry of Agriculture identified H5N1 clade as positive through PCR and sequencing tests in non-vaccinated commercial Peking duck farms in South Kalimantan.