Indonesian government does its best to stamp out bird flu

Indonesia's cash -strapped government is doing what it can to stamp out bird flu, but needs international help, a top EU health official said Tuesday. The country, criticized for moving too slowly when the H5N1 virus first appeared in poultry stocks two years ago, meanwhile said the military would join the fight with thousands of troops going house-to-house in search of sick birds.

The government has so far rejected calls to slaughter all poultry in bird flu-infected areas, which experts claim is the best way to contain the spread of bird flu, saying it can't afford to compensate farmers.

But Markos Kyprianou, the European Union's commissioner for public health and consumer protection, said after meeting Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono the government was doing what it could. "Indonesia has a plan and the political will to handle this problem," he said, kicking off a two-day visit to the sprawling archipelago. But it "needs international support."

Outbreaks of H5N1 have left poultry flocks devastated across Asia since 2003 and jumped to humans, killing at least 64. Five of the deaths have been in Indonesia, and officials were awaiting tests that have been sent to a Hong Kong lab for two other young women who died earlier this month, reports the AP. I.L.

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