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Indonesian teenager dies of bird flu

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, Aug 9 (Reuters) A 17-year-old Indonesian girl has died of bird flu, results from a local test showed, the second teenager to die of the disease this week in the country that has now recorded the highest number of human bird flu deaths.

Tests by two local laboratories showed the girl was infected with the H5N1 virus, a health ministry official said, making her Indonesia's 44th confirmed death from avian influenza.

The girl, from North Jakarta, died yesterday. She had been in contact with sick and dead fowl, the usual mode of transmission of the virus that is endemic in poultry in nearly all provinces across the vast archipelago.

Indonesian authorities were sending the girl's swab samples to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further tests.

However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), if two independent local laboratories return positive results from human samples, then the case is considered definitive.

The girl's death came hours after that of a 16-year-old boy from the outskirts of Jakarta. The WHO confirmed that he was the country's 43rd human death from bird flu.

Indonesia has now recorded the highest number of human bird flu deaths, most of them since the start of this year.

In Vietnam, where 42 people have died, there have been no reported infections in people this year after the government imposed sweeping vaccination programmes for birds.

The Indonesian government has defended its efforts to curb bird flu amid concerns about the mounting death toll, saying it had done its best despite financial constraints.

''It is not true that the government is not spending money or conducting culling,'' Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie told a news conference.

Bakrie said that since 2003 the government had destroyed about 29 million birds, 5.9 million of them from backyard farms, and spent up to 44 million dollars in an effort to stamp out the disease.

Indonesia had not received ''a single cent'' from 1.9 billion dollars pledged by international donors at a conference in Beijing in January, Bakrie said.

''More than 95 per cent of our efforts have been funded with our own money,'' he said. ''With or without international help, Indonesia will continue its efforts.'' Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said most bird flu patients had died because they had not been taken to hospital until five or six days after they showed symptoms.

''Often villagers did not report after birds died in their areas.

This makes it hard for us to detect whether anyone had been infected,'' she said.

Indonesia has been criticised for not doing enough to stamp out H5N1, which still remains essentially an animal disease but experts fear could spark a pandemic if it mutates into a form that can pass easily among people.

Unlike Vietnam, which has conducted mass culls to get rid of sources of infection, Indonesia has only carried out selective culling and only in places where there are known H5N1 outbreaks.

REUTERS DKA PM1647

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