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Preventive measure: A health worker disinfects dead ducklings in Arahan Kidul village, Indramayu, West Java, on Sunday. The local administration is attempting to curb the spread of avian flu, which killed thousands of ducks across the archipelago. (Antara/Dedhez Anggara)Most regions across the country have now begun taking measures in anticipation of the spread of a new strain of the avian flu virus which has killed thousands of ducks over the past few months.
The new virus has been identified as H5N1 clade 2.3.2.
The Cirebon regency administration has set up a special team for bird flu prevention comprising 80 members, 17 of whom are veterinarians, and they have been deployed to promote the vaccination program in all villages with duck and chicken farms in the regency
“Through this measure we want to make sure that Cirebon will be free of bird flu,” head of the local agriculture and husbandry office Ali Effendi said on Wednesday.
In Bantul, Yogyakarta, farmers got together on their own initiative to carry out a self-funded vaccination program to prevent the spread of the new virus.
Ngadiman, chairman of the Gunungan, Bantul, branch of the farmers’ group Sejahtera, said his group had asked their 30 members to administer vaccines to poultry with the help of veterinarians
“If bio-security and vaccination measures are conducted routinely, the possibility [of the poultry] being infected will be relatively small,” a local chicken breeder, Yosafat, of Srigading, Sanden, Bantul, said.
The local agriculture, husbandry and forestry office has also distributed free disinfectants to spray poultry cages.
The new virus strain has killed more than 1,000 ducks in Bantul. The same strain also reportedly killed hundreds of ducks in Yogyakarta, Central Java and in East Java.
Central Java Animal Husbandry Agency head Whitono said that the vaccine for the new virus strain would be ready to distribute to farmers in the province early in February.
The master seed of the vaccine, which was developed in Sukoharjo, Central Java, last December is currently being mass-produced at the Agriculture Ministry in Jakarta.
The provincial administration has recorded nearly 200,000 cases of duck deaths in 28 regencies and cities since September 2012.
In West Kalimantan, a province declared bird-flu free in 2010, a total ban on bringing in poultry from other provinces has been put in place.
“Thank God, we are still free from new cases, including from the clade 2.3.2,” West Kalimantan Animal Husbandry and Health Agency head A. Manaf Mustafa said.
Agriculture and husbandry authorities in Lampung have also taken similar measures as the province is home to thousands of poultry farms that supply Jakarta.
Over 6,000 ducks were reported to have been infected with the virus in Lampung’s three regencies of South, Central and East Lampung.
In Lampasi district, Payakumbuh, West Sumatra, known as the province’s main production center of poultry products, the virus killed nearly 2,000 ducks in December 2012, while in Sidenreng Rappang (Sidrap) regency, South Sulawesi, some 25,500 birds have reportedly died since December 2012.
Sidrap Animal Husbandry Agency head Asis Syam said on Wednesday the figure continues to increase. He also said the exact toll could be higher than recorded as many cases were not reported because farmers thought their poultry died of another disease known as tetelo.
In Depok, the administration anticipates the spread of avian flu, which had reportedly struck parts of neighboring Bogor and Tangerang.
“We have asked subdistrict chiefs to maintain hygiene at poultry farms and for the farmers to separate chickens from ducks, which are more prone to the current epidemic,” said Zalfinus Irwan, head of the municipality’s husbandry, fisheries and agriculture agency.
The agency officials are also on patrol to vaccinate fowl at farms located in eight districts, including Tapos, Sawangan and Bojongsari.
The last case of sudden chicken deaths in Depok took place in August 2012, while the most recent avian flu case in humans claimed a 2-year-old boy in February 2011.
Nana Rukmana, Yuli Trisuwarni, Slamet Susanto, Ainur Rohmah, Oyos Saroso H.N., Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Andi Hajramurni, Yuli Tri Suwarni and Severianus Endi contributed to this story.