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Tests confirm Indonesian child died of bird flu
Last Updated: 2006-07-14 11:11:14 -0400                                 By ******

A 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)

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