Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-10-Bird flu kills Indonesia children

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-10-Bird flu kills Indonesia children

Two Indonesian children have become the latest victims of bird flu, raising the country's death toll to 22.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a 12-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy had died from the H5N1 virus, the health ministry said.

The girl died in the town of Solo and the boy at a hospital in Semarang, both in Central Java province.

Both children were said to have been in contact with sick chickens before they became ill.

'Rapid diagnosis'

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters more would be done to protect people from the disease.

"We will carry out intensive rapid diagnosis of patients suspected of having the disease," she said.

She pledged more supplies of the antiviral Tamiflu drug for health centres, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The virus has been found in birds in 26 of Indonesia's 33 provinces, she said.

More than 90 people have now died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu since 2003.

The vast majority of the deaths have been in Asia, but cases in people and birds have also been recorded in Europe and Africa.

Almost all the deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry.

Experts fear the virus could combine or mutate into a form that passes easily between humans, possibly sparking a pandemic, but there is no evidence that this has happened yet.

Understanding Avian Influenza