Indonesia and Malaysia step up anti-bird flu fight

Indonesia and Malaysia took their anti-bird flu campaigns to the streets Friday, testing thousands of chickens, ducks and doves for the H5N1 virus that has killed 87 people across Asia.

In India, veterinary workers wearing goggles and protective suits cleaned up chicken coops in a small town hit by the disease, while China reported that a 6-year-old boy infected with bird flu had fully recovered.

Indonesia's Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono declared a "war on bird flu" as he launched a three-day campaign to test birds across the capital Jakarta, the source of most of Indonesia's human cases.

So far 19 people have died in Indonesia, all in the last nine months, more than any country worldwide within the same period.

The government was criticized for failing to take the threat seriously when humans first began dying last year, and it remains to be seen how effective the drive will be in Jakarta, known for its often corrupt and inefficient administration.

Apriyantono acknowledged that bird flu had "reached an alarming level" as 600 workers started testing chickens, pet parrots and ducks across the city of 12 million people, vowing to cull all birds within one kilometer (a half mile) of an outbreak.

Many Indonesians keep one or two chickens or songbirds in the their backyards. Poultry distribution centers and markets also are packed with live birds, many of which are slaughtered in front of clients to assure their freshness, reports the AP.