Indonesia Records 43rd Bird Flu Death
Tuesday, August 8, 2006; 2:28 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A 16-year-old boy in Indonesia died Monday from bird flu according to local test results that, if confirmed, would push the country's death toll from the disease to the highest in the world.
Normally reliable tests performed at a local laboratory showed the boy had the H5N1 virus, said Dr. Santoso Suroso, the director of the capital's infectious diseases hospital. Health officials said he had come into contact with sick chickens at his home, just east of Jakarta.
If confirmed by a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory, the death would be Indonesia's 43rd from the virus since July 2005, a third of which occurred this year.
Neighboring Vietnam is the second hardest hit at 42, but it has not recorded any deaths in 2006.
The teenager's mother said her son, Megi Supatra, was initially diagnosed with a regular virus and told to go home. It was only four days after his symptoms appeared that bird flu was suspected, and by then it was too late, said Sadiah, wiping back tears after her son's funeral early Tuesday.
"I knew about bird flu from the TV and radio, but when my son got sick I had no clue it was bird flu," she said. "I had no idea he was going to leave me."
Grieving relatives buried Megi at a family plot shaded by jackfruit trees close to his home in Bekasi. Yards away, villagers were rearing chickens in coops.
The H5N1 virus has killed at least 135 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, according to WHO. That figure does not include Monday's death in Indonesia.
Most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus _ which remains hard for people to catch _ will mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.
Experts say Indonesians will continue to die until the nation stops the rampant spread of infection among its hundreds of millions of backyard poultry.
"You've got to worry about the humans, but if you don't clean up the animals, it doesn't matter what you do," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief told The Associated Press by phone.
Vietnam largely controlled the spread of the virus by launching a nationwide mass vaccination campaign for poultry last year. Thailand, which has reported 16 deaths, relies on strong village-based surveillance and mass slaughtering when outbreaks are discovered.
Bird flu in Indonesia grabbed the world's attention in May when seven members of a single family died of the virus _ the largest recorded cluster to date. The WHO concluded that limited human-to-human transmission likely occurred, but the virus did not spread beyond the blood family members.
Associated Press medical writer Margie Mason contributed to this report.