Indonesian students look for bird flu infected flocks

Veterinary students on the resort island of Bali will begin testing backyard poultry flocks for bird flu this week as Indonesia steps up its fight against the deadly virus. The government announced last month it was enlisting students across the sprawling country to help test for bird flu in poultry as part of efforts to improve monitoring and surveillance.

Bird flu has killed five Indonesians this year. More than 60 people across Asia have died after contracting the virus since 2003. I Gusti Ngurah Mahardika, a veterinary lecturer at Bali's Udayana University, said a team from his department would take samples from chickens, ducks, swans, quails and pigeons at three locations on the island on Friday.

Other universities in Indonesia are scheduled to begin similar testing later this month.

Mahardika said he did not know whether local agricultural officials would kill any birds that tested positive for the virus.

The United Nations recommends the culling of infected fowl, but Indonesia has yet to do this on a large scale because of the cost of compensating farmers.

Most of the people in Asia infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu have had contact with sick birds. International health experts fear that if the virus mutates into a form that is easily transmissible between people, it could spark a pandemic, possibly killing millions, reports the AP. I.L.

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