Indonesia Suffers Greatest National Toll in Bird Flu Deaths

Washington – Indonesia’s Ministry of Health is reporting the country’s 43rd death resulting from infection by the H5N1 avian influenza virus, more than any other country in the world.

The death of a 16-year-old boy from West Java Province August 7 becomes the 55th human case in Indonesia. It is the 32nd death in the nation in 2006, and the 43rd since human cases first appeared there in 2005.

Vietnam has confirmed 42 human deaths from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and until now has been the nation to record the most serious impact on its population.

A total of 10 nations have detected outbreaks of the animal disease in humans. Indonesia has reported 38 cases in 2006 alone, the most of any nation this year.

Like the vast majority of other human cases detected throughout the region, contact with ailing chickens around the household is the apparent means by which the latest human case occurred.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report on the Indonesian case issued August 8 said the boy had been exposed to sick birds just days before his own symptoms began.

Health officials warn that the virus that has caused the deaths of more than 200 million birds could mutate into another form of influenza contagious among humans, causing a worldwide pandemic of disease. (See related article.)

Since late 2003, when the H5N1 virus first began appearing, 235 human infections have been detected, resulting in 137 deaths.

Another human death due to H5N1 is also reported from Thailand. Health officials confirmed August 7, and the WHO affirmed, a human death from H5N1 exposure thought to have resulted after the victim had buried infected chickens without protection.

The death of the 27-year-old man from the central province of Uthai Thani is the second to occur in Thailand in the past two weeks, an unsettling development in a nation that had not seen a human case of H5N1 in eight months. (See related article.)

Thai agriculture officials have launched an aggressive eradication effort. A government report to the World Organisation for Animal Health says the entire Muang district has been declared an HPAI-infected area.

This action places a ban on the movement of poultry for a period of 30 days after the late-July completion of a wide-scale disinfection effort. Almost 50,000 birds and 2,500 farmers were involved in that campaign.

News accounts say the Thai government declared a “bird flu disaster zone” August 8, ordering a house-to-house sweep for sick birds in 29 of the nation’s 76 provinces.

Thailand has reported a total of 24 human H5N1 cases since 2004, resulting in 16 deaths.

The United States is one of the world’s leading international donors helping vulnerable nations respond to the threat of bird flu. (See fact sheet.)

For ongoing coverage, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).