Via Bloomberg: Indonesia is struggling to warn of bird flu danger.
Indonesia's Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said she is struggling to warn of the danger of bird flu, which has killed three of every four people it has infected in the world's fourth-most-populous nation.
"I am running out of ideas how to make the public aware,'' Supari told reporters in Jakarta today. Yesterday the health ministry confirmed the 49th human avian influenza case. The H5N1 strain has infected people in more than half of Indonesia's 33 provinces since July.
Indonesia has reported the most H5N1 cases this year. The nation of 238 million people is attracting international attention after seven members of a family from the island of Sumatra were infected, representing the largest reported instance in which H5N1 may have been spread among people and the first evidence of a three-person chain of infection.
New human cases provide opportunity for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people, according to the World Health Organization. Clusters of cases may signal the virus is becoming more adept at infecting humans, not just birds.
We're trying to get on top of the virus, but time is running out,'' Supari said. "It seems people perceive bird flu happens on television, and they aren't aware that they too are at risk if they don't follow the required steps,'' such as avoiding contact with sick or dead poultry, she said.
This is one of the most interesting observations anyone has made about H5N1. Whatever is on TV, whether news or fiction, becomes entertainment—part of a fantasy world that may resemble ours but has no serious connection with us. Even a potential pandemic is happening to someone else, somewhere else.
Europeans and North Americans, I suspect, are thinking much like Indonesians.