Bird Flu Infects Child, Marking 60th Indonesian Case

(Aug. 23 2006) Indonesia reported its 60th human case of bird flu after a 6-year-old girl tested positive for the virus, which has killed an average of one person a week in the country this year.

The girl, from Bekasi in West Java, developed symptoms Aug. 6 and is being treated in an isolation ward at Sulianti Saroso Hospital in Jakarta, Runizar Ruesin, head of the health ministry's avian flu information center, said in a phone interview today. Dead birds were recorded in the girl's neighborhood, indicating a possible source of her infection.

Medical and animal health officials are struggling to arrest the H5N1 avian flu strain, which has spread to fowl in 80 percent of Indonesia's 33 provinces. Diseased birds risk infecting humans and create chances for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people.

"The situation in Indonesia is of concern from a public health perspective,'' Laurence Gleeson, a regional manager with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization in Bangkok, said in an interview yesterday. Some people probably haven't heard the message about how to protect themselves from the disease.''

Since 2003, H5N1 is known to have infected 240 people in 10 countries, killing 141 of them, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all human H5N1 cases have been linked to close contact with sick or dead birds, such as children playing with them or adults butchering them or plucking feathers, according to the Geneva-based agency.

Majority of Fatalities

This year, 64 people in nine countries are confirmed to have died from H5N1, with more than half the fatalities occurring in Indonesia. The virus has killed four of every five people infected with the disease in the Southeast Asian nation.

Health authorities are awaiting test results on a 35-year- old woman from the Simalungun regency in North Sumatra province who is suspected to have been infected by diseased chickens, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters in Jakarta today. The woman developed symptoms of cough and high fever on Aug. 21, Supari said.

The Indonesian government is starting a new campaign next week to warn of the dangers of handling sick or dead fowl before the rainy season starts, Bayu Krisnamurthi, secretary of a government-appointed committee on avian and pandemic flu, said yesterday. The cooler season increases the risk of flu, he said. (from


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