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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Indonesia's Bird Flu Death Toll Crosses 50
By Kathy Jones
Sep 24, 2006 - 1:17:00 PM

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24 Sep, ( - A nine-year-old Indonesian boy died on bird flu on Friday taking the total death toll to 51, health officials confirmed. Earlier in the week, the Indonesian health ministry had confirmed the country's 50th fatality from avian influenza.

The 11-year-old boy from East Java province had died in hospital last week. He had contact with dead chickens, the Indonesian officials had revealed. The boy had fallen ill on September 16 and developed symptoms of bird flu after which he was rushed to the hospital.

The 51st victim, who died Friday was said to have had contact with a sick bird. He had suffered from fever, cough, runny nose and pneumonia after he began to get sick on September 13, hospital officials said.

Runizar Ruesin, the head of the centre, told Reuters that local tests proved the boy died of bird flu. "The result came out this morning. It has been confirmed positive," he said.

Indonesia has thus far registered the highest death toll from the H5N1 virus globally. Last month it overtook Vietnam, which had recorded 42 bird flu deaths. Health experts have criticized Indonesia for failing to take strict measures to curb bird flu. The country did not sanction culling poultry until the situation nearly got out of hand.

Twice in the last few months, bird flu cluster fears were raised in the country. A bird flu cluster is infections in family or relatives of the index case. The fear is that if the H5N1 virus mutates to an easily transmissible form between humans, a worldwide pandemic may result. In May, the World Health Organization confirmed partial human-to-human transmission in seven members of a bird flu cluster family.

Health experts say Indonesia remains a weak link in the global fight against possible bird flu pandemic.

The bird flu virus first surfaced in Asia in 1997 and then again resurfaced in 2003. Since then it has spread rapidly across Asia and Europe as well as Africa. Till now the virus has only been transmitted after close contact with infected birds and coming in contact with saliva, nasal secretions, and feces.

According to World Health Organization figures 144 humans have so far succumbed to H5N1 virus. Most of the deaths have occurred in Asia where the virus originally surfaced in 1997 and then again in 2003.

Almost all cases, including the latest Indonesian bird flu death, were triggered by close contact with dead poultry animals.

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