Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why are they not worried about the Avian Flu?

One of the biggest worries I have about living in Indonesia is about the Avian Flu. It was constantly on my mind last year and because of it, I don't even go near the section of the market that sells chicken.

Obviously, I'm too paranoid to buy any chicken home to cook but I do eat it occasionally when we are out since the danger is when the chicken is still uncooked. However, if I were to let my paranoia go further, I'd worry that the people in the kitchen might somehow have come in contact with an infected chicken when they went shopping for the restaurant. And the worst case would be that they catch the virus and it mutates in them to the strain that can be transmitted from human to human.

Initially, I did have have multiple paranoia induced scenarios in my mind all the time but after awhile, even though I avoided chicken, I 'forgot' that Indonesia has the most cases and deaths (by FAR) from Avian flu. Not a good thing. I'm all fired up again now after a conversation I had yesterday. By the way, as of 28 May, 2008, 108 out of the 241 deaths from Avian Flu was in Indonesia.

Aini asked me why we don't eat chicken. After I told her, she very casually said "Oh yeah, we had that at home. It got a few of our chickens so we moved the others to a different location". She said this with a 'No big deal' kind of tone.

What happened to quarantining and culling the remaining birds in the area??? And guess what else, she's not sure how they disposed of the affected chicken. She thinks they were just buried but they may have been burnt. Not really sure ALL ALL. Wasn't she worried? No, because the affected chicken have been removed.

There was absolutely no worry or a shred of concern from her about the whole issue. She was not aware of the dangers or the potential of a world wide pandemic either. And the ultimate worst part of it all: Even after I told her everything, she doesn't seem to feel the gravity of the situation.

Yes, she is just one person but I am pretty sure that if I were to go ask her neighbors, I'd get similar reactions. There is hardly any mention of the Avian Flu in the newspapers. Nobody talks about it. It is a non-issue here. Even last year when there was more international mention of it, the people here did not have basic facts about it.

Anyhow, my paranoiameter is back up to 'Red Alert'.


Mike said...

Time to move back to Australia.

MamaGeek said...

What Mike said. THAT is totally understandable!

GJ said...

Hi Amanda,

You must have realised now that Indonesians have no inderstanding of risk. This is evident in the way they drive, the way they build just about any activity has no safety precautions attached. Disease is no different, I'm afraid.
Just give those live chooks a wide berth.

Dipl.-Ing. Wilfried Soddemann said...

Spread of avian flu by drinking water:

Proved awareness to ecology and transmission is necessary to understand the spread of avian flu. For this it is insufficient exclusive to test samples from wild birds, poultry and humans for avian flu viruses. Samples from the known abiotic vehicles also have to be analysed. There are plain links between the cold, rainy seasons as well as floods and the spread of avian flu. That is just why abiotic vehicles have to be analysed. The direct biotic transmission from birds, poultry or humans to humans can not depend on the cold, rainy seasons or floods. Water is a very efficient abiotic vehicle for the spread of viruses - in particular of fecal as well as by mouth, nose and eyes excreted viruses.

Infected birds and poultry can everywhere contaminate the drinking water. All humans have very intensive contact to drinking water. Spread of avian flu by drinking water can explain small clusters in households too. Proving viruses in water is difficult because of dilution. If you find no viruses you can not be sure that there are not any. On the other hand in water viruses remain viable for a long time. Water has to be tested for influenza viruses by cell culture and in particular by the more sensitive molecular biology method PCR.

There is a widespread link between avian flu and water, e.g. in Egypt to the Nile delta or Indonesia to residential districts of less prosperous humans with backyard flocks and without central water supply as in Vietnam: See also the WHO web side: .

Transmission of avian flu by direct contact to infected poultry is an unproved assumption from the WHO. There is no evidence that influenza primarily is transmitted by saliva droplets: “Transmission of influenza A in human beings” .

Avian flu infections may increase in consequence to increase of virus circulation. In hot climates/the tropics flood-related influenza is typical after extreme weather and floods. Virulence of influenza viruses depends on temperature and time. Special in cases of local water supplies with “young” and fresh H5N1 contaminated water from low local wells, cisterns, tanks, rain barrels, ponds, rivers or rice paddies this pathway can explain small clusters in households. At 24°C e.g. in the tropics the virulence of influenza viruses in water amount to 2 days. In temperate climates for “older” water from central water supplies cold water is decisive to virulence of viruses. At 7°C the virulence of influenza viruses in water amount to 14 days.

Human to human and contact transmission of influenza occur - but are overvalued immense. In the course of influenza epidemics in Germany, recognized clusters are rare, accounting for just 9 percent of cases e.g. in the 2005 season. In temperate climates the lethal H5N1 virus will be transferred to humans via cold drinking water, as with the birds in February and March 2006, strong seasonal at the time when drinking water has its temperature minimum.

The performance to eliminate viruses from the drinking water processing plants regularly does not meet the requirements of the WHO and the USA/USEPA. Conventional disinfection procedures are poor, because microorganisms in the water are not in suspension, but embedded in particles. Even ground water used for drinking water is not free from viruses.
Ducks and rice [paddies = flooded by water] major factors in bird flu outbreaks, says UN agency
Ducks and rice fields may be a critical factor in spreading H5N1
26 March 2008 – Ducks, rice [fields, paddies = flooded by water! Farmers on work drink the water from rice paddies!] and people – and not chickens – have emerged as the most significant factors in the spread of avian influenza in Thailand and Viet Nam, according to a study carried out by a group of experts from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and associated research centres.

“Mapping H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza risk in Southeast Asia: ducks, rice and people” also finds that these factors are probably behind persistent outbreaks in other countries such as Cambodia and Laos.
The study, which examined a series of waves of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in Thailand and Viet Nam between early 2004 and late 2005, was initiated and coordinated by FAO senior veterinary officer Jan Slingenbergh and just published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
Through the use of satellite mapping, researchers looked at a number of different factors, including the numbers of ducks, geese and chickens, human population size, rice cultivation and geography, and found a strong link between duck grazing patterns and rice cropping intensity.

In Thailand, for example, the proportion of young ducks in flocks was found to peak in September-October; these rapidly growing young ducks can therefore benefit from the peak of the rice harvest in November-December [at the beginning of the cold: Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos are situated – different from Indonesia – in the northern hemisphere].

“These peaks in congregation of ducks indicate periods in which there is an increase in the chances for virus release and exposure, and rice paddies often become a temporary habitat for wild bird species,” the agency said in a news release.

“We now know much better where and when to expect H5N1 flare-ups, and this helps to target prevention and control,” said Mr. Slingenbergh. “In addition, with virus persistence becoming increasingly confined to areas with intensive rice-duck agriculture in eastern and south-eastern Asia, evolution of the H5N1 virus may become easier to predict.”

He said the findings can help better target control efforts and replace indiscriminate mass vaccination.
FAO estimates that approximately 90 per cent of the world’s more than 1 billion domestic ducks are in Asia, with about 75 per cent of that in China and Viet Nam. Thailand has about 11 million ducks.

Dipl.-Ing. Wilfried Soddemann - Epidemiologist - Free Science Journalist

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Bilbo said...

Well, now that you know everything there is to know about transmission of Avian Flu from others, I think the most cogent observation (besides Mike's) is from gj - not just Indonesians, but many people (including we Americans) have no conception of how to assess relative risk. All I can say is don't let your paranoiameter run your life, but let it be a common-sense guide to what you know are unhealthy situations. Good luck!