Indonesia says local tests show boy died of bird flu

  • World
  • Monday, 19 Dec 2005

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An eight-year-old Indonesian boy has died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu according to local tests, a Health Ministry official said on Monday. 

Hariadi Wibisono, who heads a department charged with eradicating animal-borne diseases, said the boy's results had yet to be confirmed by a Hong Kong laboratory affiliated with the World Health Organisation. 

"Based on the results, local tests show he is positive for bird flu," Wibisono told Reuters. 

Indonesia has had nine deaths from bird flu confirmed by the Hong Kong laboratory and five cases where patients have survived. Besides the boy, Indonesia is also awaiting confirmation from Hong Kong on a 39-year-old man who died last week of bird flu according to local tests. 

It was unclear if the boy had contact with infected chickens, Wibisono said. He died last week in Jakarta. 

Since late 2003, the H5N1 avian flu virus is known to have killed 71 people in five Asian countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. 

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain at the moment is hard for humans to catch and remains essentially a virus in birds. However, scientists fear it could mutate into a form that could easily pass from human to human. 

The virus is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, and has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of some 17,000 islands and 220 million people. 

Indonesia has millions of chickens and ducks, many in the backyards of rural or urban homes. 

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