Indonesia records 49th death from bird flu

AKARTA, Sept 13 (Reuters) - A five-year-old Indonesian boy who died in March had bird flu, a health official said on Wednesday, raising the country's death toll from the virus to 49.

The boy died at Jakarta's Sulianti Saroso Hospital, the country's main bird flu treatment centre. He was from Bekasi on the eastern outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week recognised three more cases of bird flu in Indonesia, one from June and two dating to 2005. The boy has also been included after the WHO issued new definitions for human infections of the H5N1 avian flu virus, said Runizar Ruesin, head of the health ministry's bird flu information centre.

Prior to the recent revision of the WHO's definitions for H5N1 infection, the cases had not met the UN health agency's criteria for serologically confirmed avian influenza infection.

The Health Ministry said no one else in the boy's family was known to have been infected, although it was unclear how he caught the virus. Contact with infected poultry is the usual mode of transmission.

Indonesia has now recorded 64 cases of H5N1 infection. The national death toll is the world's highest.

Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease, but scientists fear the virus, which has killed at least 143 people since late 2003, could mutate and pass easily among humans, possibly killing millions.

Indonesia has been criticised for not doing enough to combat the disease, which is endemic in birds in most of the country's 33 provinces.

The government has so far refused to conduct mass culling of poultry, citing the expense and logistical difficulties in capturing and killing millions of backyard fowl.


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