Indonesia blames death on H5N1; Kuwait has suspected cases

Apr 4, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Indonesia announced another fatal case of H5N1 avian influenza today, as initial tests indicated H5N1 infections in four Bangladeshi poultry cullers hospitalized in Kuwait.

Indonesian officials said today that two rounds of testing confirmed that a 23-year-old Jakarta woman who died 3 days ago had the H5N1 virus, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. She died within hours of admission to the hospital, an official from the National Bird Flu Information Center told AFP.

The woman was a housemaid who had cared for a pet eagle, Muhammad Nadirin, an official with Indonesia's bird flu center, told Reuters today. He said authorities had not determined if the eagle had the H5N1 virus, though some poultry had recently died near the home.

In addition, initial tests on a 15-year-old girl from Jakarta were positive for the H5N1 virus, health ministry officials told the Chinese news service Xinhua today. Joko Suyono, of the ministry's bird flu center, told Xinhua that officials were awaiting the results of second tests to confirm her case.

The girl was admitted to Catholic Hospital in Jakarta on Mar 30, 2 days after she developed a high fever and pneumonia, Suyono told Xinhua. Two days ago she was transferred to the bird flu unit of Persahabatan Hospital in east Jakarta, he added. The girl had had contact with birds, the report said.

By the World Health Organization (WHO) count, Indonesia has had 81 H5N1 cases with 63 deaths. But since Jan 29, Indonesia has reported as confirmed at least 10 cases (including the one today) that have not yet been recognized by the WHO, plus several more cases with initial positive tests.

WHO confirmation of the Indonesian cases stalled after Indonesia announced in February that it had stopped sending its H5N1 samples to the WHO out of concern that the samples were being used by pharmaceutical companies to develop H5N1 vaccines that poor countries didn't have access to or couldn't afford.

On Mar 27 Indonesia's health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, agreed to immediately resume sending samples to the WHO as part of an agreement that allows the WHO to share the samples with commercial companies as long as it seeks permission from source countries.

Supari said today, after a meeting with WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that Indonesia would start sending viruses to the WHO within 2 months, according to a Xinhua report.

Suspected cases in Kuwait
Meanwhile, four Bangladeshi workers who were in Kuwait assisting with culling operations after recent avian flu outbreaks on poultry farms were hospitalized with flulike symptoms yesterday and have tested positive on initial tests for the H5N1 virus, according to reports from AFP and other news services today. Kuwait has had no confirmed human H5N1 cases.

The workers are under isolation in Kuwait's infectious disease hospital, AFP reported. If the results of the second tests are positive, the samples will be sent to a WHO lab in Cairo for confirmation, an anonymous medical source told AFP.

Health ministry spokesman Ahmad Al-Shatti said an official statement on the test results will be made tomorrow after officials review the results, AFP reported.

In late February Kuwait reported several isolated H5N1 findings in poultry and other birds, signaling the country's first outbreak of the year. Since then, the disease has spread to some large poultry operations and led to the culling of about 1.5 million birds, which represent about 60% of the country's layer stock, according to media reports.

Since the poultry outbreaks, 22 people, not including the Bangladeshi workers, have been admitted to hospitals with suspected avian flu symptoms, but all were later found to be healthy and were discharged, the AFP report said.

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