Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang
The deaths of thousands of chickens in the last two weeks have raised public fears of avian influenza virus in Kupang, although local authorities have said the deaths weren't related to the virus. The true cause is still under investigation.
The head of the animal health unit of the East Nusa Tenggara Husbandry Agency, Maria Geong, said Tuesday that 7,000 chickens had died in Kupang in the last two weeks.
"Preliminary investigations suggest the chickens died of Newcastle disease or chronic respiratory disease," she added.
The office sent specimens of dead poultry to two different laboratories, the state-run Veterinary Diseases Investigation Office and Udayana University's Biomedic Laboratory. Both are located in Denpasar, Bali, and are capable of detecting the avian influenza virus.
Previously, the East Nusa Tenggara Health Office confirmed it had found avian influenza in chicken samples taken from 13 regencies across East Nusa Tenggara.
The findings further frightened residents, who were still reeling from recent scares with both anthrax and a beef infection of undetermined origin.
Last Friday, Yoseph Taek, a nine-year-old boy, died and 167 people were hospitalized after consuming beef in Timor Tengah Utara (TTU) regency. Most of those hospitalized were residents of Sapaen village in North Biboki district.
TTU Husbandry Agency head Asa Petrus said the victims were not infected with anthrax. The office is still investigating the exact cause of the incident.
In October, dozens of residents of Ende and Sikka regencies fell ill after consuming buffalo meat. Authorities also identified more than 700 residents infected with anthrax.
A total of nine East Nusa Tenggara residents have died from anthrax contamination.
The provincial administration has sent 145,000 doses of the anthrax vaccine to 19 regencies to cope with the problem.
"We hope to vaccinate all cattle in this area in order to curb the spread of the disease," Maria Geong said.
She said anthrax came from the Bacillus anthraxis microbe, which mostly infects animals such as pigs, buffaloes, cattle, horses and goats.
In Indonesia, anthrax was first detected in 1884. Those infected with the virus display visual symptoms such as abscesses.