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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 04:03 GMT 05:03 UK
Indonesia bird flu deaths hit 42
A chicken vendor in a market in northern Sumatra
Indonesia has been criticised for not taking tougher action
Indonesia has recorded its 42nd human bird flu death, bringing the country level with Vietnam as the worst affected by the disease.

Tests by the World Health Organization showed that a 44-year-old man who died last week had the H5N1 virus, health ministry officials said.

Indonesia has registered more bird flu deaths this year than any other nation.

In contrast the outbreak in Vietnam now seems to be under control, due to a large culling and vaccination drive.

No Vietnamese deaths have been recorded in 2006.

Criticism

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.

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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.

Globally, more than 130 people have died of bird flu since late 2003. Most of the deaths have been in East Asia, but the virus has also spread to Europe, Africa and South and Central Asia.




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