Avian flu called likely in Indonesian death

Sep 12, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – A 37-year-old Indonesian woman has died of suspected avian influenza, becoming potentially the country's fourth human victim of the H5N1 virus, according to news services.

The woman was admitted to a Jakarta hospital Sep 6 and died there Sep 10, according to Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari, as reported yesterday by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Supari said a blood sample had tested positive for avian flu, but samples were sent to Hong Kong for further testing, with results expected in a few days, AFP reported. In another AFP report today, Supari said it was "very likely" that the woman died of avian flu.

Authorities were investigating how the woman became infected, Supari told reporters. The woman was an immigration agent who rarely had contact with animals but lived near a chicken slaughterhouse, according to a report in the Australian newspaper The Age.

If confirmed, the case would bring CIDRAP's unofficial count of Asia's H5N1 cases since late 2003 to 121, with 63 deaths. Another recent case not yet included in those numbers is that of a 58-year-old Vietnamese man who died in late August and had tested positive for an H5 virus, but whose final test results have not yet been reported.

In July, a 38-year-old Indonesian man and his two young daughters, who lived in a Jakarta suburb, died of what authorities said was avian flu. The man and one daughter tested positive for the virus, and authorities concluded that the other daughter had the same illness.

The virus was found in some chicken feces near the home of the victims, but they had had no known contact with infected poultry, and authorities never conclusively determined how they contracted the virus. The family lived a few miles from farms where pigs and poultry were found to be infected with H5N1 earlier in the year. Indonesia has had numerous H5N1 outbreaks in poultry.

The only previous human case of H5N1 avian flu in Indonesia involved a poultry worker who was tested last March, though he had not been sick. He was found to have a low level of antibodies to the virus, according to results reported in June.

Supari said the government would continue a campaign to vaccinate millions of chickens, according to today's AFP story. It said the government has been criticized for doing only limited culling.

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