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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Indonesia bird flu toll increases
Chicken receives vaccine
Indonesia prefers to vaccinate rather than use mass culling
Another two people are confirmed to have died from bird flu in Indonesia, bringing the death toll there to six.

Test results show that both a young girl who died last week and a 27-year-old woman who died on Monday had been exposed to the H5N1 virus.

Several other recent fatalities are being investigated, and about 20 people are in hospital with bird flu symptoms.

The deadly disease has already killed dozens of people across Asia, and led to millions of birds being culled.

There is so far no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but health officials fear that if the virus combines with the human influenza virus, it could become highly infectious and lead to a global flu pandemic.

Laboratory tests

The latest victim - a 27-year-old woman who died on Monday morning - had been hospitalised with bird flu symptoms last week.

Health ministry officials confirmed on Monday that she had died of the disease.

Officials also announced that a five-year-old girl who died last week had succumbed to bird flu.

H5N1 BIRD FLU VIRUS
Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong, 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Isolated cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong and Vietnam, but none confirmed

There was initial confusion as to whether she had in fact died of the disease - she was found to be positive for the virus in one test but negative in another - and at one stage officials said that meant she could not be classified as having had bird flu.

But according to the BBC correspondent in Jakarta, Rachel Harvey, they now appear to have changed their minds.

It also seems that a second child, a two-year-old, was buried before samples could be taken for testing to see if she too had bird flu.

'Extraordinary' measures

The first case of human infection in Indonesia was announced in July.

Last week Health Minister Siti Fadila Supari warned that Indonesia could be facing an epidemic, remarks which were later played down by other officials.

But the government is evidently worried. The authorities have already instituted tough new "extraordinary" measures, including the power to force people suspected of having bird flu into hospital.

The WHO has urged countries with infected poultry to use widespread mass culling as the best method of stopping the spread of the disease.

But the government has only carried out limited culling, preferring to vaccinate poultry because of the expense of compensating farmers.

The recent outbreak in Jakarta is causing particular concern because of the close proximity between birds and humans.

Most Indonesian households keep chickens for food or caged birds for pets.

Finding the source of an outbreak is therefore extremely difficult, our correspondent says, and the chances of the virus spreading in a teeming city of more than 15 million people are high.

The government says it expects delivery of 40,000 more doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu by the end of this week, with a further 40,000 provided by Australia sometime soon.


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