9/29/2005

50 Indonesia bird flu cases suspected - Bird Flu - MSNBC.com

Officials lower number of virus-related deaths from six to five

JAKARTA - Indonesia faces more than 50 suspected cases of deadly bird flu, Indonesian health ministry officials said on Thursday, while lowering their figure on deaths from the disease to five from an earlier estimate of six.

Bird flu has killed 65 people in four Asian nations since late 2003 and has been found in birds in Russia and Europe.

Experts’ greatest fear is that the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has the power to kill one out of every two people it infects, could set off a pandemic if it gains the ability to be passed easily among people.

“Until now, we reported 63 suspected (cases) of bird flu,” I Nyoman Kandun, who heads disease control at Indonesia’s health ministry, told Reuters on Thursday.

But while 10 of those suspected have died, five of the casualties proved to be from other causes, he said.

That leaves five deaths the ministry believes were due to bird flu.

Riadi, a ministry public relations staffer handling flu issues, said suspected cases have come from nine provinces across Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago.

Figures on both bird flu deaths and suspected cases in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, have sometimes been confusing since the country reported its first casualties in July.

Common symptoms of the disease, such as pneumonia, can have other causes, while local testing has not always squared with results from Hong Kong which are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Asked about suspected cases on Thursday, WHO spokeswoman Sari Setiyogi said: “We refuse to use the term ’suspect’ because suspect is too broad. It can mean anything.”

Other countries helping
According to the international agency’s standards, she said: “We have four positive bird flu cases (in Indonesia). Three died, one is still alive. Probable cases are (an additional) nine.”

Indonesia has formed a special team to prepare for any bird flu pandemic and coordinate foreign assistance and funding.

The formation of the team under the ministry’s National Pandemic Aid Plan was announced on Wednesday.

“Other countries have committed to help in terms of providing equipment, expert paramedics, that sort of stuff. We are concentrating on paramedic training and preparing hospitals,” health minister Siti Fadillah Supari said.

While experts say the virus could have passed in a few cases from person to person among those who had had very close and sustained contact in the last two years, it has yet to mutate into a form that would allow it to do that easily.

Millions died in past flu pandemics.

50 Indonesia bird flu cases suspected - Bird Flu - MSNBC.com

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