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Indonesia to start producing Tamiflu

An official in Jakarta, Indonesia, throws slaughtered birds into a fire during a poultry culling Friday. Bird flu has been detected in poultry throughout Jakarta.
An official in Jakarta, Indonesia, throws slaughtered birds into a fire during a poultry culling Friday. Bird flu has been detected in poultry throughout Jakarta.
Dita Alangkara, Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia said Friday it would begin producing the bird flu drug Tamiflu, while Vietnam and China reported new outbreaks of the virus among poultry.

Swiss-based drug manufacturer Roche Holding AG said Indonesia could produce the drug, and the country will start making it as soon as it decides whether to get the raw materials from China or Korea, said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari.

"This means we can produce Tamiflu in our own factories," she told The Associated Press.

Roche refused to comment on whether it was offering Indonesia any technical assistance.

"Tamiflu does not have patent protection in Indonesia," Roche spokesman Baschi Duerr said from the company's headquarters in Switzerland. "Indonesia is therefore free to produce Tamiflu as long as the product is distributed only in the domestic market."

Tamiflu, otherwise known as oseltamivir, has shown promise in the treatment of human H5N1 bird flu infections.

The announcement came the same day the country announced that bird flu has been detected in poultry throughout Jakarta.

"It is very serious," said Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono. "Based on our research, the virus has spread all over the city."

The findings were announced after random samples were gathered from backyard farms throughout the sprawling capital. Authorities on Friday also destroyed 400 fowl in a residential area of Jakarta near the home of a young girl who died from the disease.

The H5N1 virus has been found in 23 of Indonesia's 30 provinces and has killed seven people.

At least 67 people have died from bird flu in Asia since 2003, the bulk of them in Vietnam. Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a contagious form that spreads easily from person to person. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with birds.

China's Agriculture Ministry reported a new outbreak in the northern Inner Mongolia region, bringing the total number of outbreaks for the country in recent weeks to at least 22.

The latest outbreak killed 246 birds at a farm in the city of Zalantun on Nov. 20, prompting officials to kill 16,567 birds in the area, the ministry said.

The report did not specify what kind of birds were affected. Tests confirmed the birds died from the deadly H5N1 virus on Friday, it said.

China, which has the world's largest number of chickens, has called bird flu a "serious epidemic." Outbreaks in poultry are still being reported almost daily.

Earlier this week, China confirmed its second human death from bird flu — a 35-year-old farmer who died after coming into contact with infected poultry and developing a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms.

In hard-hit Vietnam, officials reported new infections in southern Long An province, the Department of Animal Health said on its Web site.

Outbreaks have been reported in 19 other provinces since October, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 1 million birds, it said.

In Japan, officials announced plans to develop a bird flu vaccine prototype to help create a human vaccine if the virus mutates into a form that passes easily between people, said Tomohiko Arai, head of a government advisory panel on science.

The Japanese plan calls for faster development and approval of flu vaccines, Arai said. Currently, vaccine production requires several months of development plus safety screening before clinical use.