(dpa) - Indonesia's bird-flu or avian influenza situation remains "critical" and a high circulation of the virus that causes it could lead to mutations and threaten humans, a United Nations agency said Tuesday.
Indonesia remains the nation worst hit by avian influenza despite efforts by the government and the international community to contain the disease, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement.
"The human mortality rate from bird flu in Indonesia is the highest in the world and there will be more human cases if we do not focus more on containing the disease at source in animals," FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.
Avian influenza is deeply entrenched in 31 out of a total of 33 of the archipelago nation's provinces, according to FAO, with the virus endemic in Java, Sumatra, Bali and southern Sulawesi while sporadic outbreaks were reported in other areas.
Particularly prone to infection is the country's chicken population of 1.4-billion, some 20 per cent of which is scattered in around 30 million backyards where people raise poultry for food or income.
Conditions in Indonesia such as a highly decentralized administration, under-resourced national veterinary services, lack of engagement with commercial poultry producers, insufficient financial and human resources and a difficulty in informing people of the dangers of the disease were hampering efforts to eradicate it, Domenech said.
"We have also observed that new H5N1 avian influenza virus strains have recently emerged, creating the possibility that vaccines currently in use may not be fully protecting poultry against the disease," Domenech warned.
The FAO said it was supporting the Indonesian authorities to train officials working with village communities to prevent and control avian influenza.