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US donates protective gear to help Indonesia fight bird flu

JAKARTA (AFP) - US ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe handed over 100,000 sets of protective equipment to help Indonesia in its fight against bird flu, which has killed six people this month.

The gear is part of a 24-million-dollar programme to help Indonesia combat the spread of the deadly virus, which has claimed 63 lives here since the start of 2005, the world's highest death toll.

"The most recent cases serve to remind us that we have not yet contained bird flu here in Indonesia, and must remain vigilant in both our continued efforts to detect and contain the virus and to educate the citizens of this nation," Pascoe said in a statement issued by the US embassy.

The protective suits, respirators, goggles and gloves will be distributed to people who come in direct contact with poultry or people infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The embassy said the United States would donate a total of 200,000 sets of protective gear and 2,000 decontamination kits for use at infected farms, hospitals, clinics and homes.

Health workers have begun slaughtering thousands of birds in the capital Jakarta ahead of a February 1 ban on backyard poultry, while poultry markets and slaughter houses are to be moved away from residential areas.

The ban is to be gradually extended to cover the whole country.