Health authorities in bird flu-wracked Indonesia were testing seven suspected bird flu patients from one village yesterday, including three children who have been hospitalized, officials said.
The seven come from a district in North Sumatra where a cluster of seven H5N1 deaths occurred in May, but are from a different village, said I Nyoman Kandun, director of the health ministry's communicable disease control center.
Another senior health official, Hariyadi Wibisono, said that the group was being treated as two potential clusters of cases.
"The first consists of the two siblings, with a neighbor. The other consists of four people, all of whom are neighbors," he said.
The first group, of siblings aged 10 and six and their 18-month-old neighbor, were moved to a hospital in the North Sumatra capital of Medan from a local hospital on Tuesday.
Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said on Wednesday that officials had found the sick children while conducting surveillance in the area and that one of them was suffering from pneumonia.
Members of the second group, of four neighbors, have refused to be admitted to hospital and are in reasonable condition, though complaining of coughs and fevers, said Ringet Boru Sitepu, an official at Kabanjahe village hospital.
"They have come to the hospital for X-rays but they refused to be hospitalized. They prefer to be outpatients," she said.
The Indonesian health ministry's bird flu information center said four experts, including a doctor from the WHO, had been sent to the affected area to meet with local officials.
"Hopefully, within 48 hours we will be able to get the [test] results," said Runizar Ruesin, the center's head.
All seven suspected bird flu patients hail from a village in Karo district, where the world's first lab-confirmed human-to-human transmission of bird flu occurred three months ago.
Scientists feared that the virus may have mutated sufficiently to permit efficient transmission among people, bringing a global human flu pandemic with the potential to kill millions nearer.
But the slight mutation that took place was determined to be insignificant.