PDPI urges Indonesia to lead ASEAN flu pandemic prevention effort

The problem is that bird flu, which is supposed to only affect poultry, has started to attack mammals in several countries

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Chair of the honorary board of the Indonesian Society of Respirology (PDPI) Prof. Tjandra Yoga Aditama has urged Indonesia to take the lead in preventing a potential influenza pandemic in the ASEAN region.

“Again, I suggest Indonesia play an important role in influenza surveillance in the ASEAN region while now holding the ASEAN chairmanship,” he said at the “Anticipate the Possibility of Influenza Pandemic” discussion here on Friday.

He noted that the 1918 influenza pandemic took the lives of around 20 million to 50 million people globally.

After several smaller-scale outbreaks, he said, on June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 influenza pandemic, which was finally declared to have ended on August 10, 2010.

According to him, the influenza pandemic was different from the COVID-19 pandemic, which, until now, has not been explicitly declared to be over, even though the WHO announced on May 5, 2023, that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency.

During Friday’s forum, Aditama informed that there has been an increase in bird flu cases in animals in many countries, and some cases have started to be detected in humans.

Nevertheless, he said that cases of bird flu in humans have managed to be controlled, and only cases in animals are still spreading currently.

“The problem is that bird flu, which is supposed to only affect poultry, has started to attack mammals in several countries. This means that it increases the potential for threats of, not necessarily will happen, transmission to humans, too,” he explained.

He said several efforts could be made to prevent an influenza pandemic in the future, one of which is through Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship.

One of the control efforts is building collaboration between countries according to the directions of the WHO, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).

He further explained that the world already has the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework–whose drafting took 4 years and in which he was involved — as a guide on controlling influenza.

“In the world, the influenza surveillance system is already running and the operation needs to be guaranteed continuously, including in Indonesia,” he said.

The professor also called for efforts to provide influenza vaccines in various forms, which currently still need to be developed.

“Explanation and discussion on influenza need to continue to be carried out, be it among health workers, the general public, and public policy makers,” he added. 

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