Bird flu detected in Papua

IT WAS almost inevitable but the bird flu (H5N1) virus has now been detected for the first time on the island of New Guinea in the Indonesian province of Papua – in the home town of the massive Grasberg copper-gold mine.
Bird flu detected in Papua Bird flu detected in Papua Bird flu detected in Papua Bird flu detected in Papua Bird flu detected in Papua

A National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA) officer told the Post-Courier the virus had been detected in the town of Timika.

To help prevent the spread of the deadly virus throughout PNG, the transportation of birds and poultry has now been banned to and from West Sepik and the Western Provinces, located on the PNG-Indonesia border.

Authorities in PNG have warned residents of the two border provinces to be vigilant in detecting and reporting the disease.

The virus has been most rampant in Indonesia, with 22 human fatalities confirmed as a result of the virus since 2003, with half occurring this year. The virus has been responsible for 103 deaths worldwide since 2003 – the majority of these in Asia.

Earlier this week at the International Conference of Emerging Infectious Diseases, director-general of the World Health Organization of Animal Health, Dr. Bernard Vallat, called on developed nations to offer assistance to poorer nations, according to Reuters.

“Developed countries are in position to practice satisfactory early detection and rapid response. Worldwide, only 20 to 30 countries are able to do that currently. All the others, 140 or more, need help,” he said.

Vallat named European Union nations, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia as having the ability to respond quickly to an outbreak of bird flu.

Earlier this year at a conference in Beijing, governments and organisations pledged $US1.9 billion for a global “rapid containment” program for bird flu, which has been spreading rapidly throughout Europe and Africa so far this year.

Scientists say the virus is mutating and could evolve into a form that would pass easily from human to human, potentially causing a pandemic that could kill millions because people would have no immunity.

The US says it also expects to see its first case of bird flu this year, according to Reuters.

Experts from 80 nations are in the US this week for the infectious diseases conference.

Last month the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs Trade said it had stockpiled emergency supplies of Tamiflu and protective face masks at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby in preparation for an outbreak of bird flu.

"The antivirals would primarily be used to protect emergency staff providing consular and other essential services in the event of a widespread outbreak of avian influenza amongst humans," DFAT said.

"Australian missions will not be in a position to provide influenza antiviral medicines to Australians in affected areas and it is the responsibility of individual Australians to secure their own supply of such medicines (such as Tamiflu or Relenza), if required."

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