JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has found traces of H5N1 bird flu in apparently healthy-looking poultry, making it tougher to detect the disease in the country hardest hit by the virus, officials said on Monday.
Sick or dead chickens are used as a sign of H5N1 infection, but the appearance of “asymptomatic” chickens means humans could become more easily infected with bird flu. Indonesia has the world’s highest death toll from the disease, killing 79 people.
“The poultry death rate is not so high, but there is a trend that chicken or poultry are infected by the virus but they don’t die. So, the H5N1 virus is not fatal to poultry,” Musny Suatmodjo, director of animal health at the agriculture ministry, told a news conference.
Editorial: I believe that this is a natural development in viruses. They mutate in various ways, some of which lead to their demise, and others give them greater success. That a virus would ‘go underground’ and travel around without leaving as many signs is especially worrisome, as this will give the virus far more opportunities to jump to humans. The world is learning to avoid sick poultry, but we are less likely to avoid all poultry. As a result, there will be countless more opportunities for H5N1 to invade the human species.