Saturday, August 19, 2006

Health authorities widen bird flu probe (Indonesia)

Health authorities in Indonesia widened on Saturday an investigation into a potential bird flu cluster in West Java to include nine people, five of whom have already died.

Forty-five people have already died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in Indonesia, making the archipelago nation the world’s hardest hit by the virus, with outbreaks showing no sign of slowing down.

The nine in the potential cluster come from remote Cikelet, a group of villages in West Java’s Garut district. Two of the nine have been confirmed as contracting bird flu. One died and another has since recovered.

Of the four other dead, three were not tested for the virus.

“There is no proof so far (of a cluster case), but we’re still continuing our investigations,” Runizar Roesin of the bird flu information centre said.

An expert team from the health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were sent to the area on Thursday to check whether human-to-human transmission of the virus had occurred.

Cluster cases heighten the chance of the virus mutating to become easily transmissible between humans. Scientists fear this could spark a global flu pandemic, with the potential to kill millions.

Three suspected cases have been hospitalised in the provincial capital of Bandung, Roesin said. Patients identified as Isma, aged five, and Santi, six, were admitted Thursday, while pregnant Kuraesin, 30, joined them Saturday.

The confirmed death was a nine-year-old girl, Ai Siti Aminah, while Umar Aep, 17, has recovered from his infection despite his refusal to be hospitalised, Roesin said.

“He is happy in his village and he has recovered,” he said.

The four as yet unconfirmed deaths occurred over the past month - most recently 35-year-old Euis Lina on Thursday, Roesin said.

The three buried before testing could be carried out were a four-year-old boy who died on July 31, a 13-year-old girl who died on August 1, and Misbah, the 20-year-old cousin of Aep who died on August 5, he said.

Avian influenza story link:

Posted by john T. on 08/19 at 07:00 AM
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