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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Indonesia bird flu official moved
A chicken vendor in a market in northern Sumatra
Indonesia has been criticised for its handling of bird flu
An Indonesian official in charge of animal health has been transferred from his post, as the country continues to grapple with an outbreak of bird flu.

An agriculture ministry spokesman said Sjamsul Bahri's departure was part of a routine rotation of personnel.

But because Mr Bahri was closely involved in handling the outbreak, there is speculation that the worsening crisis contributed to his transfer.

Indonesia has been accused of not doing enough to stop bird flu spreading.

The virulent H5N1 strain is endemic in poultry in most of the country, and has also caused 41 human fatalities.

Indonesia could soon overtake Vietnam as the country with the highest bird flu death toll. Vietnam has recorded 42 deaths, although nobody has died this year after an aggressive culling and vaccination policy.

Culling policy

Sjamsul Bahri had been director of animal health at the agriculture ministry since September 2005.

He told the BBC that he did not know whether his transfer had anything to do with bird flu.

A report in the Koran Tempo newspaper quoted Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono as saying Mr Bahri was fired because of his poor performance in fighting the outbreak, but a spokesman for the ministry told the BBC that the transfer was routine practice.

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Indonesia has been criticised for its reluctance to cull fowl in infected areas - a measure that experts say is the best way to stem the spread of the disease.

But the government says it does not have enough money to compensate farmers, and has asked for $900m (495m) over the next three years to tackle the virus.

Indonesia's problems were highlighted in May when the country recorded a large cluster of deaths which the WHO believes were the result of human-to-human transmission.

Experts say this particular incident did not signal a major change in the spread of the disease. But there is a fear that the bird flu virus could mutate to a form which could be easily passed from human to human, triggering a pandemic and potentially putting millions of lives at risk.

Worldwide, more than 130 people have died of bird flu since late 2003. Most of the deaths have been in East Asia, but cases of the virus have also been found in Europe, Africa and South and Central Asia.


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