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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Indonesian bird flu toll hits 40
A chicken vendor in a market in northern Sumatra
Indonesia has been criticised for its handling of bird flu
Indonesian authorities have confirmed their country's 40th death from bird flu.

The victim, a five-year-old boy, died last month in Tulungagung, East Java. He is thought to have caught the virus from infected chickens.

Indonesia could soon overtake Vietnam as the country with the highest bird flu death toll.

Vietnam has 42 deaths, though nobody has died this year after an aggressive culling and vaccination policy.

In contrast, Indonesia has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the spread of the disease.

More than 130 people have died of bird flu since late 2003. Most of the deaths have been in East Asia, but cases of the virus have also been found in Europe, Africa and South and Central Asia.

Human-to-human cluster

"Results from tests on a five-year-old boy from Tulungagung, East Java, have been confirmed by the WHO-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong," senior Indonesian health ministry official Hariyadi Wibisono told the French news agency AFP.

"Reports suggest that he had been in contact with dead chickens," he said.

Hariyadi Wibisono added that the health of relatives of the boy was being investigated, but said that so far there have been no reports of new cases near where the boy lived.


Indonesia has been criticised for its reluctance to cull fowl in infected areas - a measure that experts say is the best way to stem the spread of the disease.

But the government says it does not have enough money to compensate farmers, and has asked for $900m (495m) over the next three years to tackle the virus.

Indonesia's problems were highlighted in May when the country recorded a large cluster of deaths which the WHO believes were the result of human-to-human transmission.

Experts say this particular incident did not signal a major change in the spread of the disease.

But there is a fear that the bird flu virus could mutate to a form which could be easily passed from human to human, triggering a pandemic and potentially putting millions of lives at risk.

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