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Indonesia records 43rd death from bird flu

A 16-year-old Indonesian boy has died from bird flu bringing the country's death toll to 43 from the virus.

india Updated: Aug 08, 2006 09:09 IST

A 16-year-old Indonesian boy has died from bird flu, according to local test results that, if confirmed, would bring Indonesia's death toll to 43 and make it the world's hardest-hit country.

Normally reliable tests performed at a local laboratory showed that the boy who died late on Monday had the H5N1 virus, said Dr Santoso Suroso, the director of the capital's infectious diseases hospital.

Grieving relatives buried Megi Supatra early on Tuesday at a family plot shaded by jackfruit trees close to his home in Bekasi, just east of Jakarta. Meters (yards) away from the cemetery, villagers were rearing chickens in coops.

He was admitted to the hospital on Saturday, after which his condition rapidly deteriorated.

Health officials said he had come into contact with sick chickens at his home.

If confirmed by a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory, the death will be logged as Indonesia's 43rd from the H5N1 virus since July 2005, a third of which occurred this year. Neighbouring Vietnam is the second worst hit at 42, but it has not recorded any deaths in 2006.

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 135 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, according to WHO. That figure does not include Monday's death in Indonesia. Most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus _ which remains hard for people to catch _ will mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.

Experts say Indonesians will continue to die until the nation stops the rampant spread of infection among its hundreds of millions of backyard poultry.

"You've got to worry about the humans, but if you don't clean up animals, it doesn't matter what you do," Dr Anthony Fauci, the US National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief said.

Vietnam largely controlled the spread of the virus by launching a nationwide mass vaccination campaign in poultry last year. Thailand, which has reported 16 deaths, relies on strong village-based surveillance and mass slaughtering when outbreaks are discovered. Bird flu in Indonesia grabbed the world's attention in May when seven members of a single family died of the virus _ the largest recorded cluster to date. The WHO concluded that limited human-to-human transmission likely occurred, but the virus did not spread beyond the blood family members.

First Published: Aug 08, 2006 09:09 IST