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OIE Declares H5N1 Endemic to Indonesia

Recombinomics Commentary
May 31, 2005

>>   Responding to the ministry's discovery of the bird flu virus in pigs in Tangerang, Banten province, Anton said he had ordered all pigs on the contaminated farm to be slaughtered.

    "We found the virus in small pig farms located next to poultry farms. To prevent similar cases, we have asked pig farms across the country to be relocated a certain distance away from any poultry farm," he said. <<

The declaration by OIE that H5N1 is endemic to Indonesia is not a surprise, but a major cause for concern.  Indonesia has tried to control H5N1 by selected vaccinations, which appears to have been largely unsuccessful.  There have been reports of H5N1 and H7N1 co-circulating in West Java, presenting a dangerous mix for recombination, since H7 can be efficiently transmitted human-to-human.  Finding H5N1 in asymptomatic pigs is another concern because the infections are likely to be widespread and offer another mammalian mixing vessel for H5N1.  Similar problems exist for other influenza subtypes in South Korea, including human WSN/33 from1933.

Indonesia is the world's 4th most populous country with dense concentrations of poultry and people.  The H5N1 in Indonesia is the Z genotype, the same genotype that is in Vietnam and Thailand.  The isolates in Vietnam and Thailand have picked up mammalian polymorphisms, which are associated with transmission to humans.  Indonesia has already identified a suspect human case, indicating the potential for new human cases or masking of existing human cases that have symptoms similar to dengue fever, which is also endemic to the area.

The addition of Indonesia to the list of southeast Asian countries with endemic H5N1 is cause for concern.  This confirms more genetic instability and opportunities for more recombination and evolution of H5N1.

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