The Bali authorities must act fast to stem a rising number of bird flu cases emerging on the island, and there is evidence that this is happening, with a clamp on the Satria Poultry Market over the weekend.
Wisely, health officials have ordered the Denpasar market shut for several weeks, until it is clear that the place of sale is sufficiently clean to warrant reopening. The authorities are right to insist on such stringent measures, even at the loss of traders’ income, because Indonesia cannot afford a let-up in its battle against this deadly disease.
Indonesia is the worst bird flu-affected country globally, with 156 deaths in the last 11 years. That figure rose by one when it emerged this week that a 2-year-old boy had succumbed to the virus in Sumatra.
Our country is similar to others in the region in its rural, and occasionally urban, practice of keeping chickens and other birds in close proximity to humans. Many people in villages around Bali are blithely unaware of the high risk of infection from them. Currently, the virus is spread from fowl to people. The big fear is that the pathogen is undergoing mutations that may make it infectious among people themselves, a terrifying scenario that would spark global alarm.
Meanwhile, in affected countries such as this, while the authorities continue their sweeps of markets and other places where foul are for sale or kept, they must also talk to villagers and inform them of the very real dangers.
Bali has been through a number of health scares in recent years that have negatively impacted the tourism-reliant economy. People will opt not to holiday in Bali if it hits the headlines again for the wrong reasons. To ensure that does not happen, everyone must play an active part in keeping the island as clean and sterile as possible, and immediately report sick or suddenly dead birds.