three-year-old Indonesian girl who died this month has
tested positive for bird flu according to tests by the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta, a health ministry official said on Friday. The
child's death takes the number of human bird flu deaths in
the country to 41.
Lily Sulistyowati, the health ministry's spokeswoman, said
the toddler had contact with sick fowl, the usual route of
transmission of the H5N1 virus, which is endemic in
poultry in almost all of Indonesia's 33 provinces.
"There was one dead chicken in her backyard," she said.
Sulistyowati said there was no information on whether any
other members of the toddler's family were also infected.
Indonesia has seen a steady rise in human bird flu
infections and deaths since its first known outbreak of
H5N1 in poultry in late 2003, and has registered
more deaths this year than any other country.
It has the second highest number of human deaths from bird
flu after Vietnam. Indonesia has been criticised for not
doing enough to stamp out the H5N1 virus, which still
remains essentially an animal disease but experts fear
could spark a pandemic if it mutates into a form that can
pass easily among people. The government has so far shied
away from mass culling, citing lack of funds and the
impracticality of the move in a country with millions of
backyard fowl. Vaccination is the preferred method to
prevent the spread of bird flu among poultry.
Runizar Ruesin, the head of
the health ministry's Bird Flu Information Centre, said
the ministry planned to launch a pilot project in August
for the prevention and control of avian influenza. The
three-year 44.6 billion rupiah
($4.90 million) project will be based in Tangerang
municipality, on the western outskirts of Jakarta, because
Indonesia's first cases of bird flu both in poultry and
humans were detected in the area. "This project will
include handling bird flu cases, applying prevention
measures as well as restructuring small and backyard
farms," Ruesin told reporters at an international bird flu
symposium. He did not give details. Indonesia drew
international attention in May when the virus killed seven
members of a single family in North Sumatra. Experts said
there could have been limited human-to-human transmission
in the cluster case.
On Thursday, leading science journal Nature reported that
multiple mutations have been found in the H5N1 virus that
killed the family members in Sumatra although scientists
are unsure of the significance of the mutations.
($1 = 9,100 rupiah)