WHO confirms Indonesia's 39th avian flu death

Jun 20, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A 13-year-old boy from south Jakarta who died Jun 14 represented Indonesia's 51st avian influenza case and was the 39th Indonesian to succumb, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) statement today.

His death leaves Indonesia only three fatalities behind Vietnam, which has reported the most H5N1 deaths in the world but hasn't had a human case since late last year, according to WHO information.

The boy—who has been listed as 14 years old in various news stories—experienced symptoms Jun 9 and was hospitalized Jun 13, the WHO update said. His symptoms began 1 week after he helped his grandfather slaughter chickens.

The grandfather has shown no signs of flu, and the WHO is tracing and monitoring contacts to ensure that no further cases arise, the agency said.

The official worldwide death toll from H5N1 avian flu has now reached 130, among 228 cases, according to the WHO.

WHO confirmation of the teen's case comes a day before a 3-day conference in Jakarta of experts from the WHO, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indonesian ministries of health and agriculture, and other organizations worldwide.

The consultation, which is being held at the request of Indonesian officials and attended by more than 40 experts, will review Indonesia's efforts to contain avian flu, provide an authoritative risk assessment for both animals and people, and give advice to improve the situation, the WHO said. Indonesia is reporting new H5N1 cases faster than any other country.

The Jun 21-23 meeting will also examine epidemiologic and virologic data collected during the month-long investigation into the extended-family H5N1 case cluster in North Sumatra, which killed 6 of 7 infected family members in May, the WHO reported today. An eighth family member who died is suspected to have succumbed to avian flu as well.

Experts from laboratories that tested samples from the family will present their findings at the meeting, the WHO said. Several viruses have been isolated from the samples and have been fully sequenced at WHO reference labs in Hong Kong and the United States.

More than 3 weeks (twice the maximum H5N1 incubation period) have passed since the last infected family member died, and no new cases have been reported, the WHO update said. The agency had conducted house-to-house monitoring throughout the family's village and in healthcare facilities where the patients were treated.

Indonesia has been criticized for not doing enough to stem the tide of avian flu, according to an article from Agence France-Presse (AFP) today. H5N1 has been found in birds in the vast majority of the nation's far-flung provinces, but few mass culls have been carried out as recommended by the United Nations, the AFP story said.

"Within 6 months, we have to do more practical culling . . . there's no other alternative," Trisatya Naipospos, vice chairperson of Indonesia's committee on bird flu control, said in an AFP story yesterday.

Today, however, the head of Indonesia's avian flu task force, in the ministry of agriculture, predicted better days ahead.

"In 2008, Indonesia will be free from bird flu," said Delima Ashari, according to a Reuters article today. But he added, "I realize that the immense size of Indonesia makes it not easy to handle and socialize strategies and change people's behavior on bird flu handling and how to live healthily with fowl."

See also:

Jun 20 WHO update on Indonesian situation

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