June 3, 2005
Bird flu virus discovered in pigs in Java, Indonesia
An Indonesian virologist and independent researcher discovered the H5N1 virus that causes bird flu in five out of ten pigs tested at Banten, western Java. The pigs were tested not because they showed signs of illness but due to the fact that they were kept near a chicken farm that was affected by bird flu last year.
So far, reports state that 150 pigs from outside the Banten area tested negative for the virus.
Concern is mounting over the presence of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Indonesia's pigs because government tests confirm that it could be infecting up to half of the pig population in some areas, without showing any signs of the disease.
Some Asian health officials fear the presence of bird flu in pigs even more than in poultry. Pigs can harbour both bird and human flu viruses, and can be ideal developing grounds for the emergence of a strain of bird flu that can easily infect humans.
According to the Indonesian government, while surveillance of pigs has been conducted, it may be unable to spot any spread of the virus because resources, especially finances, are short.
Reports cite communication problems between Indonesia and international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). This was seen during an interview when the OIE's regional representative for the Asia-Pacific region referred to the presence of H5N1 in pigs as "a rumour", reports say.
The FAO says that they cannot act until they have received official government reports. The same also applies to the OIE. Government sources state that while an official report for the FAO will be prepared, the FAO and OIE do not view the virologist's test results as an emergency because the pigs were not ill or dying, further delaying any serious action.