Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi has revealed that there is a new strain of the avian flu virus killing tens of thousands of ducks in East, Central and West Java but no indication that the new virus affects humans.
The minister said the virus found in poultry across Indonesia has mutated from clade 2.1 to 2.3.2, affecting and killing ducks that were previously impervious to the old subtype.
“Previously ducks were considered immune,” she said on Thursday. “But the new clade is very deadly on the bird.”
This new clade has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of poultry in the three provinces but cases of avian flu-linked deaths in humans have only been attributed to the 2.1 clade. There have been nine deaths linked to the 2.1 clade of avian flu virus this year.
Nafsiah said her office is anticipating the possibility that the new strain would also affect humans by developing more laboratories to identify the new virus.
“Right now we are increasing the capabilities of laboratories. That means there shouldn’t just be one laboratory in Jakarta which can detect [the new clade] but also our network of 42 laboratories across Indonesia,” the minister said.
Indonesia has suffered the world’s worst human fatalities from bird flu with 159 deaths since 2003 out of 359 worldwide, according to the WHO.
In an interview with Suara Pembaruan on Wednesday, West Java agricultural agency chief Koesmayadie Tatang Padmadinata said there is no known vaccine which can effectively treat infection with the new clade.
The new strain “is still within the H5N1 [virus] family but this one attacks ducks. The old [clade 2.1] vaccine is being tested for its effectiveness to counter the new type of avian flu virus,” he said.
Koesmayadie said the presence of the new clade in West Java has been reported in Bekasi, Subang and Indramayu, killing at least 2,907 ducks.
The ducks infected, he said, came from the town of Brebes in the northern part of Central Java, the first area where the new clade was detected.
Emil Agustiono, deputy for health at the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare, said the spread of the new virus indicated a lack of supervision of poultry transportation within Indonesia.