Bird flu confirmed in deaths of two Indonesian children

  • World
  • Saturday, 21 Jan 2006

By Ross Colvin

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A Hong Kong laboratory has confirmed the H5N1 strain of bird flu killed two children from the same Indonesian family this month, a senior official at the Health Ministry said on Saturday. 

Indonesia has now had 14 confirmed deaths from bird flu, said the official, Hariadi Wibisono, director of control of animal-borne diseases at the ministry, and five cases where patients have survived. 

"These two cases have been confirmed positive from Hong Kong," Wibisono told Reuters by telephone, referring to the laboratory, which is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The two children were a 4-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl from the town of Indramayu in West Java province. Their father has also been admitted to hospital suffering suspected bird flu, although no test results have come back for him yet. 

Officials had previously said the boy was aged 3. 

The Indramayu family is Indonesia's fifth cluster of cases, where people living in close proximity have fallen ill. 

There has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the deaths of the children and officials have said dead chickens were found in their neighbourhood at Indramayu, which lies 175 km east of Jakarta. 

The children died in the past week. 

Apart from the two Indramayu children, Indonesia is awaiting confirmation from local tests that showed a 39-year-old man died of bird flu earlier this month. 

The H5N1 virus is not known to pass easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic that might kill millions of people. 

Prior to the two Indonesian children, the confirmed death toll from bird flu was 80 people in six countries since late 2003. 

The highly pathogenic strain is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, and has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands and 220 million people. 

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