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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Indonesians ignorant of flu risk
By Chris Xia
BBC News

A suspected bird flu patient receives medical treatment at a hospital in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, April 4, 2007.
If people are not aware of the risks, they will not seek treatment in time
The Indonesian authorities say the battle against bird flu is being hampered by widespread ignorance of the danger the disease poses to humans.

Indonesia has had 79 human deaths from bird flu, the most in the world.

Efforts to bring the epidemic under control will depend on better public education, according to bird flu expert Bayu Krisnamurthi.

He was addressing a news conference on the second anniversary of the first human infection in Indonesia.

Mr Krisnamurthi, the head of the committee in charge of bird flu control, admitted that while the majority of Indonesians knew of the disease, only one in seven realised it could kill them. Given that the disease is endemic in poultry across most of Indonesia, this suggests that the authorities have a long way to go if they are ever going to arrest the spread of the virus.

Until Indonesians are aware of the possibility of catching the disease, and of the likelihood of dying once infected, they will not take proper precautions and will not seek immediate medical help if they come into contact with diseased birds.

High rate of infection

Of the 180 confirmed cases of humans infected with bird flu worldwide over the past few years, Indonesia has had nearly half.

Mr Krishnamurthi also suggested at the news conference that there were preliminary indications that the disease was becoming more deadly in Indonesia.

But health experts have cautioned that many factors could be behind this, such as the length of time patients wait before going to hospital.

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