Indonesia has formed a special team to prepare for any bird flu pandemic and coordinate foreign assistance and funding for the world's fourth most populous nation, the health minister said here on Wednesday.
The formation of the team under the ministry's National Pandemic Aid Plan follows the death of six Indonesians in or around Jakarta from bird flu, according to government laboratory results.
"Foreigners can contribute their aid through (the team), help with equipment and human resources," the website of Jakarta Post quoted minister Siti Fadillah Supari as saying.
"Other countries have committed to help in terms of providing equipment, expert paramedics, that sort of stuff. We are concentrating on paramedic training and preparing hospitals," she said.
Bird flu has killed 66 people in four Asian nations since late 2003 and has been found in birds in Russia and Europe.
Although there has been no widespread outbreak of the disease among people, Supari said Indonesians were becoming increasingly aware about bird flu, a topic getting blanket coverage in local media.
Experts' greatest fear is that the H5N1 virus, which has the power to kill one out of every two people it infects, could set off a pandemic if it gains the ability to be passed easily among people.
While they say the virus could have passed in a few cases from person to person among those who had had very close and sustained contact in the last two years, it has yet to mutate into a form that would allow it to do that easily.