JAKARTA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia plans to certify commercial poultry farms that are free of bird flu as part of its efforts to control the spread of the disease, an agriculture ministry official said on Friday.
Poultry farms will be monitored for sound practices, including regular vaccination of fowl and overall hygiene, Musny Suatmodjo, director of animal health at the agriculture ministry, told Reuters.
"During the monitoring, we will take blood samples of their flocks and poultry around the farm. If tests turn out negative, we will give a bird-flu-free certification," Suatmodjo said.
Once certified, the poultry farms will continue to be inspected each month, Suatmodjo said.
Indonesia has had more than 90 human deaths from bird flu, the highest number in the world. Contact with sick fowl is the most common way of contracting bird flu, which is endemic in bird populations in Indonesia.
Bird flu remains largely an animal disease, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that can be easily transmitted between humans, killing millions.
Indonesia has a poultry population of 1.2 billion a year, including 285 million chicken kept by families in their backyards. These backyard chicken are a common feature of rural life in Indonesia, but have hampered efforts to curb bird flu.
Suatmodjo said the ministry expects to launch the programme at commercial poultry farms this year, but gave no time frame.
"We can’t apply it yet to backyard fowl unless the local government issues rules to put them in cages," he said. (Reporting by Fitri Wulandari, editing by Sara Webb and Alex Richardson)