Indonesia Tourism Call
For 'Transparency'
Regarding H5N1

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
By all means, let's be "transparent" in warning and informing the public about the bird flu outbreak, we wouldn't want tourism to fall off.
What happens when the tourists "die off?" ....and bring the flu back to their countries thus causing a die off of perspective tourists?
By the way, we still don't have the complete numbers of zoo visitors who were infected. Over the next week there may be more cases. There will also be asymptomatic cases. Each zoo case does pose a risk to close contacts which will bring the numbers up higer should "cluster cases" appear.
Patricia Doyle
From ProMED-mail
By Urip Hudiono
The Jakarta Post
Tourism industry players have called on the government to be more transparent in informing the public about the bird flu outbreak to avoid confusion that could be harmful to the industry.
Although the country's tourism sector is yet to experience a significant impact from the outbreak, Indonesian Hotel and Restaurants Association (PHRI) chairwoman Yanti Sukamdani Hardjoparkoso said the industry could face another downturn as it did in 2003 -- when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) swept across Asia, including Indonesia -- if the government failed to seriously handle the situation.
"Look at what happened to Ragunan Zoo," Yanti told The Jakarta Post on Friday. "People may never want to visit the zoo again after the government was so wishy-washy about whether the place was safe from bird flu or not."
The government closed down the zoo in South Jakarta for 21 days starting 19 Sep 2005 after they found 19 birds in the 140 hectare zoo had been infected with bird flu. (19 out of 27 tested. -ed)
4 people with bird flu have died since July and 2 children died this week after showing symptoms of the virus. Yanti said the government needed to assess the situation and take preventive measures -- including specifying tourist destinations that should be avoided for the meantime -- rather than waiting for a tourist to fall ill, which would only do the tourism industry more harm. "Tourists are actually more afraid of -- and more likely to be traumatized -- by the outbreak of a disease than a terror attack; it is always more difficult and costly to restore the good image of a tourist destination afterward, than (to take measures) before it is tarnished," she said.
Similarly, the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) chairwoman Meity Robot said the government needed to step up its efforts in preventing and tackling the bird flu outbreak, before it worsened and really turned into another nightmare for the tourism sector. "The government must, most importantly, provide clearer and more complete information on the situation to the public and be resolute in taking preventive measures against the outbreak," she said.
The government has been hoping to attract 6 million foreign tourists this year, which would generate USD 5.8 billion in foreign exchange from the industry -- higher than last year's 5.3 million tourists and USD 5 billion in revenues. The number of foreign arrivals during the year's 1st 7 months was 2.45 million, according to the Central Statistics Agency, down 4.08 per cent from the same period in 2004.
Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik told Dow Jones Newswire that the bird flu outbreak would bring little effect to the tourism sector. He was still upbeat that the country's tourism sector would meet its target.
Indonesia's tourism sector has been in the doldrums since the Bali bombings in 2002, and terror attacks on the JW Marriott Hotel and the Australian Embassy, both in South Jakarta, the following years, scared off potential tourists. At the same time, a series of SARS and influenza epidemics in the region, as well as the 26 Dec 2005 tsunami, made things worse for the sector. The occupancy rates of hotels in the country dropped from an average of 55 percent to 30 percent during the SARS outbreak, PHRI said.
Despite the government's earlier warning that the outbreak could turn into an epidemic, several foreign embassies are yet to issue travel advisories to their citizens concerning the bird flu. The Japanese Embassy has notified Japanese citizens of the bird flu outbreak, but it has not issued an advisory suggesting they defer travel to the country. "There are no plans to issue a travel warning yet," an embassy official said. Elizabeth O'Neill of the Australian Embassy said her government had asked --- in its latest travel bulletin -- Australians residing in avian-influenza-affected areas not to panic and to take precautionary measures. "We will continue to keep close contact with the Indonesian government and the World Health Organization, and update Australian citizens about the situation," she said. There are more Japanese and Australian tourists here than visitors of any other nationality.
Java Begins Culling Of Pigs Infected With H5N1
By Mark Forbes
Sydney Morning Herald
The lure of free entertainment on a sunny Sunday afternoon drew hundreds to a field near the Javanese village of Babat to witness the 1st mass cull of pigs infected with the deadly bird flu virus.
Adults and children milled around, watching animals being slaughtered, thrown into a pit and burnt with no sign of public safety precautions. The Indonesian Agriculture Minister, Anton Apriantono, shouted frantically to department staff to find if it was safe to remove his white mask to answer questions. "Don't blame me if you get bird flu because you don't wear a mask. This is very dangerous, you know, as the virus can be transmitted through the air," he warned reporters that July afternoon.
Mr Apriantono was soon struggling to explain why only 31 pigs and 40 ducks from Tangerang region, bordering Jakarta, were being culled, instead of the promised hundreds of infected pigs and thousands of chickens. "We only culled the infected animals as we do not have the money to carry out a mass culling," he said.
Days earlier, an auditor who lived nearby, Iwan Rapei, and his 2 daughters died with symptoms of heavy pneumonia. Tests confirmed Mr Rapei carried the bird flu virus.
Yesterday the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency demanded Indonesia improve its virus control and immediately start culling in infected areas.
In April tests at pig farms uncovered bird flu infections, but no cull was ordered. This week it emerged several of the 17 Indonesians in hospital with bird flu in the latest outbreak came from Tangerang or areas close to Jakarta.
The botched cull raises concerns about Indonesia's ability to prevent a pandemic that could kill millions across the region.
The World Health Organisation's regional spokesman, Peter Cordingley, believes Indonesia is now the "hot spot" for bird flu, and the WHO's country representative, Georg Peterson, describes it as the "weak link" in global efforts to avert a pandemic.
Mr Cordingley said the WHO has known "for some time the H5N1 virus is entrenched in Indonesian poultry populations". "Each time a human being becomes infected, we worry because one of the scenarios for this pandemic to start is if one person has the avian influenza virus in his body at the same time as the normal flu virus, [then] there is the possibility of genetic exchange between the 2 viruses."
Although tests had shown more than half its exotic birds carried the bird flu virus, Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo was kept open on Sunday for thousands of visitors, including hundreds of expatriates on a charity fun run. Several of those since taken to hospital were zoo visitors.
The health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, at first denied the possibility of human transmission, then stated it was inevitable and Indonesia was in the grip of an epidemic. She later reversed her position, saying the outbreak could possibly become an epidemic and called on the nation to increase "alertness" .
But Mrs Supari's extraordinary flu alert was attacked by other cabinet ministers on the grounds it could harm tourism and investment.
This week Mr Apriantono finally announced culls in "highly infected" areas. But he later said more than 20 per cent of stock had to be infected for a cull order to be issued - and that no such areas existed.
Mr Cordingley said the problem was a familiar one in Asia. "There is no incentive for somebody who raises chickens to report infected chickens if he is not going to be compensated for the day government authorities come in and kill all his chickens," he said.
Indonesia's last update report (No 10) on H5N1 was sent to the OIE on 2 Aug 2005; see - Mod.AS
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health



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