Indonesia needs to improve hygiene in its fight against bird flu

Indonesia needs to improve hygiene at open-air markets in its fight against the bird flu virus that has killed at least 83 people worldwide, health officials said Friday. Alexander von Hildebrand, an adviser for the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia office, said there is a high risk for transmission of the virus between animals and people in the markets.

Vendors, eager to prove their products are fresh, often slaughter ducks and chickens in their stalls as customers squeeze through the crowded pathways. "The general public still doesn't understand the high risks," von Hildebrand said, wrapping up a five-day visit to the capital.

He and other members of the WHO team called on the government to improve hygiene, access to safe water and waste management at the markets to stem the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus.

Bird flu has killed hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks since it started ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, also jumping to humans. Fourteen people have died so far in Indonesia, reports the AP. I.L.

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