Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-Indonesian woman dies of bird flu

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-Indonesian woman dies of bird flu

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian woman has died and another was in critical condition at a specialist Jakarta hospital after local tests showed both had the H5N1 bird flu virus, a senior Health Ministry official said on Friday.

Blood samples of the two women, both from a suburb east of Jakarta, have been sent to a Hong Kong laboratory recognised by the World Health Organization for its tests.

Hariadi Wibisono, director of control of animal-borne diseases at the ministry, announced the local test results on Thursday but said one of the women had since died.

"I received a report this morning that she died last night," Wibisono told Reuters.

A spokesman of the Sulianti Saroso hospital -- which has been specially designated to treat bird flu -- said the other women was in critical condition.

The two women are not related, but hail from the same suburban Jakarta area of Bekasi.

Indonesia has had 16 WHO-confirmed deaths from bird flu and seven confirmed cases where patients have survived.

While it mostly affects birds, the H5N1 strain of avian flu has killed at least 88 people in seven countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

Turkey and Iraq in recent weeks became the latest countries to report human cases. The virus has also spread to poultry in northern Nigeria, the first time it has been detected in Africa.

Experts fear the virus will mutate to become easily passed between humans, triggering a pandemic. The current H5N1 strain of bird flu has not mutated.

The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Indonesia, an archipelago of about 17,000 islands and 220 million people.

The country has millions of chickens and ducks, many in the yards of rural or urban homes, making it likely more humans will become infected with the virus.

For financial, social and political reasons, Indonesia has been reluctant to undertake the mass culling of fowl seen in some other countries, concentrating instead on selective culling, and public education and hygiene measures aimed at prevention.

Understanding Avian Influenza