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Ciptapangan Visitor
New Bird-Flu Clusters Are Feared in Indonesia
posted by admin on 03/08/06

Blood tests still have to confirm H5N1 virus infections

August 3, 2006

MEDAN, Indonesia -- Seven Indonesians from the same village on Sumatra were being treated for bird-flu symptoms Wednesday, in what doctors and officials fear could be two new clusters of the virus.

The patients, at least three of them children, are believed to have been infected by chickens in the same region of the island where seven members of one family died in May. It was unclear if there is any connection.

Blood tests still have to confirm H5N1 virus infections, but they are being treated as if they have the life-threatening disease.

"There are two clusters, one with two sisters, the other with three family members, and another two of their neighbors," said Nyoman Kandun, a leading Health Ministry official.

Senior Health Ministry official Hariadi Wibisono said samples were taken from the patients after they had been admitted to the Adam Malik hospital in Medan on Tuesday.

Public health authorities went looking for people with bird flu symptoms after dead chickens were found nearby. Those chickens have tested positive for avian influenza, Kandun said.

Indonesia has posted 42 human deaths from the H5N1 strain of the virus since July 2005. It grabbed world attention in May when seven members of a single family died of the virus -- the largest recorded cluster to date -- also on Sumatra island.

The World Health Organization concluded that limited human-to-human transmission likely occurred, but the virus did not spread beyond the blood family members.

Bird-flu clusters, or groupings of infections, are closely watched by experts because they can help determine if the illness is changing or becoming more easily transferable between people.

Spokeswoman Sari Setiogi said the WHO was aware of the latest case, but declined further comment. Among those believed to be infected this time are two sisters, 10 and 6, and an 18-month-old boy from the house next door.

Health officials said their condition was stable, but they have only just been placed under medical observation and may have pneumonia. Health Minister Siti Fadila Supari told reporters after meeting with hospital officials on Sumatra that "their condition for the time being is good."

Treating Dr. Luhur Soeroso said they "are just suffering from the usual fever, flu and cough" associated with bird flu.

Most humans who have contracted the virus had contact with infected poultry. But experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a global pandemic. So far, at least 134 people have died world-wide since the disease began spreading in Asia in late 2003.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press

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