by M. Azis Tunny
There is a need to raise awareness of bird flu because of a real threat: It could turn into something much more frightening than the H5N1 virus.
The frightening thing would be if the virus caused a pandemic if and when it became able to spread among humans, Coordinator of Surveillance and Monitoring at the National Commission on Bird Flu Control and Awareness on Influenza Pandemic (Komnas FBPI) Heru Setijanto said Friday.
Setijanto said Indonesia was currently ranked highest in the world in the number of deaths from bird flu, and was unprepared as to how to deal with a pandemic.
"The incubation period of the virus is very fast and deadly when contracted by humans. We are
not ready to face a pandemic if the situation arises," Setijanto told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a national seminar on a Bird Flu Pandemic Response Simulation in Toraja, South Sulawesi.
He said Indonesia was ill-equipped to face the bird flu pandemic because training was only provided so far to personnel at government ministries and agencies.
"When it turns into a pandemic, it becomes a multi-sector problem and would involve every sector. We are unprepared as of now, especially for other sectors to [cope with] the epidemic," he said.
According to Setijanto, the bird flu virus will always mutate and this is a cause for grave concern.
When contracted by humans, the incubation period of the H5N1 virus could cause death rapidly, in as little as five days.
Indonesia so far remains on top of the world chart with the highest number of deaths from H5N1.
Data at the Health Ministry showed 121 of the 145 patients diagnosed as infected with the virus had died, a very high fatality rate.
He added a bird flu pandemic could claim many lives and that 30 percent of the world's population could be at risk.