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Massive H5N1 Infections at Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta Indonesia

Recombinomics Commentary

September 18, 2005

Apriantono told the ElShinta private radio that 19 out of 27 samples taken from various birds at the zoo, including pigmy chickens and eagles, contained the bird flu virus.

Four other samples were inconclusive and the remaining four were negative, he said.

'Usually two weeks are enough but we decided to raise it to three weeks to make sure unwanted things would not happen,' Apriyantono said of the closure, adding that some 2,100 birds in the zoo's collection will be tested for the virus.

The above comments indicate the bird population at the Ragunan Zoo in the Pasar Minggu suburb of Jakarta is heavily infected with H5N1.  Since there was no mention of bird deaths, it would appear that the birds are asymtomatically infected.  The zoo is 16 km due south of Jakarta near the agriculture department.

In contrast, the cases in Tangerang are southwest of Jakarta.  The pet birdcage across the street from the first Tangerang cluster was H5N1 positive, but the bird appeared healthy.  Thus, without testing it is unclear how widespread H5N1 is among pet birds, but the limited testing described in Indonesia's OIE report clearly showed that H5N1 was widespread and in poultry and swine in several Tangerang sub-districts.

Although H5N1 is widespread, testing is minimal.  In the neighborhood of the first cluster, only 3 chickens were reported tested.  Similarly, in the closest sub-district the reported tests were also limited to 3 chickens.  This testing is absurd and designed to generate negatives for inclusion in press releases.  In two more Tangerang sub-districts where testing was somewhat expanded, H5N1 was readily detected in swine and poultry.

The number of human cases continues to mount, and the number of false negatives is exceedingly high.  Only one of the three infected family members in the initial cluster were PCR positive.  Thus, far there has only been one additional PCR positive case although several patients with symptoms also have H5N1 antibodies.

The testing in Indonesia is scandalously poor.  The H5N1 positive swine in Tangerang was largely ignored. After 3 members of a government worker died, very limited testing and culling was done.  When another government office worker died, a press conference cited negative tests in a 100 meter radius that excluded the chicken slaughterhouse 100 meters from the victims house.

The number of reported positives remains obscure.  Four are dead that were clearly H5N1 infected.  At least two more have H5N1 antibodies and symptoms.  There may be another positive child and a 2 month old who lived above a chicken slaughterhouse and died of pneumonia was not tested.

The reported cases appear to be limited to government employee family members with little contact with poultry.  The concentration of lab confirmed H5 fatalities in one small neighborhood is the highest on record.

The time has passed for an aggressive testing campaign to determine the extent of H5N1 in poultry, swine, pet birds, and people.

WHO's position, including counting on one fatality in the original H5N1 familial cluster, is dangerous to the world's health.

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