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Science File

Bird Flu Death Pushes Indonesia Toll to No. 1

July 22, 2006|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

The Indonesian Ministry of Health confirmed Thursday the country's 42nd human death from avian influenza, a toll that gave the nation, along with Vietnam, the most deaths from the virus.

The latest victim, a 44-year-old man from East Jakarta, died July 12, the World Health Organization said. The man was probably infected by poultry around his home or the wet market where he worked at a food stall, the organization said.

The strain of bird flu known as H5N1 is still primarily an animal disease. Since 2003, it has spread from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

World health officials are worried the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people. Since 2003, the World Health Organization has recorded 231 human cases and 133 deaths.

Vietnam has reported no cases since 2005, the year Indonesia began seeing infections.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 54 cases in Indonesia.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of about 18,000 islands, has been criticized for shying away from enforcing mass culling. Officials there say a lack of funds and a decentralized political system make such a mandate difficult to carry out.

On Friday, however, the country's vice president called on local authorities to follow orders to cull poultry in infected areas, and pledged to pay farmers for the loss, the Associated Press reported.

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