Indonesian chicken vendor has bird flu - ministry


JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian chicken seller in Jakarta is in hospital after being infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus according to local test results, a senior Health Ministry official said on Wednesday. 

funnel Wibisono, director of control of animal-borne diseases at the ministry, said the 22-year-old man was being treated in a Jakarta hospital designated for bird flu patients. 

"Local tests show he was positive for bird flu. He is a chicken vendor in a traditional market," Wibisono said, adding blood samples had been sent to a Hong Kong laboratory recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for confirmation. 

Indonesia has had 14 confirmed deaths from bird flu and five cases where patients have survived. 

Bird flu has killed at least 82 people in six countries since late 2003. 

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. 

Drawing attention to the threat posed by traditional markets in Indonesia, the WHO on Wednesday urged that hygiene and sanitation standards be improved. 

"Massive interaction between humans and live poultry takes place every day in wet, traditional markets here and it might be a potential transmission of avian influenza," Alexander von Hildebrand, the WHO's Southeast Asia regional adviser for environmental health, said in a statement. 

The WHO said preventive measures included limiting contact between humans and poultry in markets, as well as having better access to water and improved waste management. 

Sanitation in many traditional markets in Indonesia is poor, with dirty or drainage water used to wash produce and stalls. 

Indonesia's confirmed bird flu cases include two children from the same family in West Java province who died this month. 

They were Indonesia's fifth cluster of cases, where people living in close proximity have fallen ill. 

Two other members of the same family, a 14-year-old sister and the 43-year-old father, were hospitalised with respiratory symptoms and samples from their cases have been tested locally, with the results negative for bird flu, Wibisono said. 

There has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the deaths of the two children and officials have said dead chickens were found in their neighbourhood. 

Jakarta is also awaiting confirmation from local tests that showed a 39-year-old man died of bird flu earlier this month. 

The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu 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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