Indonesia's bird flu death toll hits 101

Other News Materials 30 January 2008 06:32 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- A 32-year-old Indonesian man has died from bird flu, taking the country's human death toll from the H5N1 virus strain to 101, a Health Ministry official said Wednesday.

The man, identified only his initial, Nas , from Banten's district of Tanggerang , just west of Jakarta, succumbed Tuesday in Jakarta's Persahabatan , an hospital designated to treat bird-flu patients, said Joko Suyono of the Health Ministry's Bird Flu Centre.

Indonesia's human death toll from bird flu is the world's highest.

Suyono said that the victim developed symptoms on January 17 and sought medical treatment in a nearby public health clinic before being brought four days later to Bhakti Asih Hospital in Tanggerang . He was referred Saturday to Jakarta's Persahabatan Hospital with fever, respiratory problems and pneumonia and died three days later.

"Test results confirm he had been suffering from bird flu," said Suyono , adding that investigations into the source of his infection are ongoing.

The latest death brings Indonesia's bird-flu death toll to 101 among the 124 diagnosed human cases of H5N1, the strain of bird flu that can be deadly in people. Both figures are the highest in the world.

The latest death is Indonesia's third human fatality in three days. A 23-year-old Indonesian woman from East Jakarta died Sunday, and a 9-year-old boy died early Monday.

Experts said that the further confirmed bird-flu death shows that the virus could be out of control in the vast archipelago.

"Inconsistency and a lack of coordination between government agencies are the main obstacles to contain the spread of bird-flu virus," said Try Satya Naipospos , an expert and former deputy of the national bird-flu commission.

The government has been "not serious and tough enough" in attempting to contain the spread of bird flu, she said.

Naipospos said that despite a law that was passed early in 2007 banning backyard poultry farming and regulating the poultry industry, the policy has likely only recently been implemented. There was no further implementation on the government's initial plans to place commercial poultry farms and slaughterhouses away from residential areas.

"What we can see on the field is that, right now, in many areas, particularly in the capital Jakarta and its nearby regions, a policy banning fowl in the neighbourhoods area is no longer working," Naispospos said.

Avian influenza has been particularly prevalent in municipalities surrounding Jakarta, with the Tangerang district of particular concern with its large population living close to poultry. Since October, Tanggerang has reported nine confirmed human infections, all fatal.

"Unless the government is firm with its policy, bird-flu virus would spread further, and I am afraid it will become worse," Naipospos said, adding that there is also no further vaccination carried out by government authorities against backyard farms.

"Bird-flu virus would remain within neighbourhood areas - particularly in the capital Jakarta and surrounding areas - unless a new breakthrough is taken," said Marthen Malole , a veterinary expert from the state-run Bogor Institute of Agriculture, who become an outspoken critic of the government's avian influenza policy.

Before the latest deaths in Indonesia, the World Health Organization had confirmed at least 217 deaths in 12 countries in Asia and Africa.

The most common way to contract the H5N1 virus is through human contact with infected fowl. Bird flu remains mainly an animal disease, but experts fear that the virus could mutate into a form that could spread easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions of people around the world.