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Ciptapangan Visitor
Bird flu spreads in Asia, jump in number of Indonesian cases
posted by admin on 17/01/07

An Indonesian hospital was on Monday overwhelmed with patients suffering bird flu symptoms as the disease spread further in Vietnam and Thailand reported its first case in poultry in six months.

But farm ministry officials in Japan said there was no evidence of the disease spreading there following confirmation at the weekend of a bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in the southwest in which 3,800 chickens died.

A recent spurt of infections of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which re-emerged in Asia in late 2003, has alarmed health officials.

Four Indonesians have already died this year after a six-week lull in cases, taking the number of human deaths from bird flu in the country to 61, the highest in the world.

At Jakarta's Persahabatan hospital, where doctors were treating 9 people with bird flu symptoms, including a 5-year-old girl in intensive care, its isolation wards were overwhelmed.

"If we get more patients, we will send them to Sulianti Saroso," Muchtar Ichsan, the head of the bird flu ward, told Reuters, referring the country's main bird flu treatment centre in North Jakarta.

The patients included the son and husband of a woman who died of bird flu last week. The 18-year-old son has been confirmed to have the disease, signalling a cluster case, although tests so far on the husband show he does not have the virus.

Adding to regional worries, a senior Thai agriculture official said on Monday that 1,900 ducks had been culled in the northern province of Phitsanulok after some of the birds had tested positive for H5N1.

The case is Thailand's first in birds since last July. The last human death -- the country's 17th -- occurred in August.

In Vietnam, where bird flu has killed 42 of the 93 people infected since 2003, the virus appeared to be spreading fast among fowl in the country's southern Mekong Delta, threatening to engulf the major rice-growing region.

The Animal Health Department said in a report seen on Monday that tests showed H5N1 had killed ducks in the province of Soc Trang, just a day after bird flu was found in the neighboring province of Tra Vinh.

The Agriculture Ministry has ordered an additional poultry vaccination campaign in the Mekong Delta area and requested reinforcement of animal health teams to contain the spread.

Agriculture officials have warned the country's 84 million people that the virus could spread to all 64 cities and provinces nationwide via migrating birds.

Indonesia planned to prohibit people from keeping backyard fowl in three high-risk provinces.

"We are taking the step because the current condition has reached emergency health levels," Aburizal Bakrie, coordinating minister for welfare, told a news conference.

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