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New human bird flu case confirmed in Indonesia

By Staff
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JAKARTA, Apr 11 (Reuters) A 23-year-old man undergoing treatment in Sumatra has been confirmed to have bird flu, an Indonesian Health Ministry official said today, citing results from a World Health Organisation-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong.

Indonesia has had 23 internationally confirmed deaths from avian influenza since 2003, the second highest of any country.

''This morning we got a confirmation that the result from the Hong Kong laboratory was positive for a 23-year-old male.

He is still hospitalised at Jamil hospital in Padang, West Sumatra,'' Hariadi Wibisono, director-general of animal-borne disease control at the health ministry, told Reuters.

The man had been working at a chicken farm in West Java before he became sick. Most human cases of the virus stem from contact with birds that have it.

Indonesia has had the most human bird flu deaths of any country so far this year, killing at least 12 people.

The highly pathogenic strain has affected birds in about two-thirds of the country's provinces.

Stamping out the virus is a huge, if not impossible, task in the sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands and 220 million people.

The government has resisted the mass culling of fowl seen in some other nations, citing the expense and the impracticality in a country where the keeping of a few chickens or ducks in the backyards of homes is common in cities and on farms.

Agencies have concentrated instead on selective culling and on public education and hygiene measures aimed at prevention.

A sweeping door-to-door campaign to try to control the disease in the capital Jakarta, the country's biggest city which along with its suburbs is home to about 12 million people, only got underway at the end of February.

Agriculture officials estimate that Jakarta alone has some 500,000 fowl.

Efforts elsewhere in the country have hit shortages of needed equipment, funds and infrastructure.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has spread in birds at an alarming rate in recent months, sweeping through parts of Europe, into Africa and flaring anew in Asia.

The virus has killed at least 109 people worldwide since 2003, a fraction of the deaths feared if the virus mutates and spreads easily from person to person.

REUTERS CH KP1504

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