There are suspicions the virus entered Indoensia from other countries - like Vietnam or Thailand.
To determine this, the agriculture ministry's veterinary chief has reportedly written a letter to local government offices and the World Health Organisation calling for further research into the origins of the virus.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Dr Alan Hampson, chair, Influenza Specialist Group
HAMPSON: They have obviously typed an avian influenza virus as a H5N1, that's the avian type of viruses that are circulating in various parts of the world at the moment, and on their own results to date have shown that it's different from the viruses that have previously been in Indonesia. That hasn't been confirmed to the best of my knowledge by other laboratories at this stage. But if it is a clade 2.3 virus, which they say, then it's very different from the clade 2.1 viruses, which have been in Indonesia for sometime.
These viruses have been evolving over a period of time from their original origin is over a decade ago and they're becoming fairly specific to countries, in particular groups, and all of the viruses that we've seen of recent times in Indonesia have been of this first clade, 2.1 clade, whereas the 2.3 clade has been seen predominantly in China and Vietnam, but also in other parts of the world, even in parts of Europe and Korea. And how did it get to those other parts of the world. We think possibly the transfer by migratory birds has actually been responsible for quite a bit of that.
COCHRANE: Now, just to clarify. I understand that the clade is a group of organisms usually species with a common ancestor. Is that correct?
HAMPSON: Yes, that's right, where they've evolved out and diverged into quite separate groups and as I said, they are becoming fairly region-specific. There's another clade, a particular clade of viruses which has largely been seen in the Middle East, but also seen in India and Pakistan. So there are four major clades of these influenza viruses in birds at the moment.
COCHRANE: So does that make it relatively straightforward to track the origin of the particular strain of bird flu?
HAMPSON: It would be fairly straightforward, excuse me. If we had a full genetic map of that virus, and I presume that laboratories will be doing that genetic mapping in the near future and then compare it in a genetic analysis with all the other known H5N1 viruses, then you'll be able to see where it's most closely related or the viruses to which it is mostly closely related and that would give you a fair idea of where it had come from and may be even how it got there. As I say, there are some being transferred by migratory birds. On the other hand, a lot of the transfer of avian viruses is by illegal trade in poultry and we can't rule that out.
COCHRANE: How serious or how dangerous is this particular strain of bird flu?
HAMPSON: They're all dangerous to poultry. This one clearly has had a big impact in ducks from the reports that I've seen from Indonesia and the viruses that tend to kill ducks are more of a problem than the ones that only kill chickens or only largely kill chickens. So economically, this could be quite a problem for Indonesia.
In terms of risk for humans. Probably no more risk for humans than the viruses they've already got in Indonesia and the viruses that we've seen in the Middle East are the ones that may be moving more closely towards being able to become a human influenza virus and so those are the ones that people are watching very, very closely at the moment.
COCHRANE: What can the Indonesian authorities do to try and reduce the spread or at least slow the spread of this particular strain?
HAMPSON: Look, Indonesia is a real problem in terms of the distribution of poultry. A lot of it is village poultry. It's spread amongst so many hundreds of islands that to mount concerted campaigns is more difficult there than possibly in other countries around the world. And the Indonesian authorities have a real problem. They can try and vaccinate, they can try and slaughter, in particular areas where the virus is predominant. But in poor areas, where you are down to subsistence farming at the village level, people are more likely to, if their birds get sick, they're more likely to kill the birds and eat them, than allow anybody to come in, slaughter them and take them away.
And this is one of the problems, I think with transfer of the virus from birds to people quite often in Indonesia and that's an ongoing problem.
To vaccinate right throughout Indonesia, I think, with village poultry, it's going to be very near impossible.