Indonesia’s veterinary office recently identified a bird flu virus that killed hundreds of thousands of ducks in the last few weeks as a more virulent type that is new to the country.
A poultry breeders’ association reported the death of more than 300,000 ducks since November in several provinces on Java Island. The H5N1 virus involved in the deaths was part of a clade that is not typically found in Indonesia, AFP reports.
“We found a highly pathogenic avian influenza sub-type H5N1 (virus) with clade 2.3,” Syukur Iwantoro, the agriculture ministry’s veterinary chief, said, according to AFP. “This clade is a new clade found for the first time in Indonesia, that is very different to the avian influenza found before, which is clade 2.1.”
A clade is a group of organisms with a common ancestor.
Iwantoro called for additional research to determine if the virus genetically shifted from one previously in the country or if it came from other countries, such as Thailand or Vietnam.
Health officials are asking local governments to stop and check pick-up trucks and motorbikes used to transport poultry to attempt to stop the virus from spreading.
Bird flu can spread from birds to humans through direct contact, though experts worry the it could mutate into a form that transmits easily between humans. According to the World Health Organization, out of 359 worldwide human fatalities from bird flu since 2003, 159 of them occurred in Indonesia, AFP reports.