Indonesia defended its efforts to fight bird flu yesterday as the number of people killed by the virus continued to climb. The death of a 27-year-old woman, the third in as many days, brought the country's toll to 55.
The government, which has been accused of doing too little to fight the disease since it first appeared in poultry stocks three years ago, said it has worked hard in recent weeks to raise public awareness about the dangers posed by sick chickens.
"We are doing the best we can," Nyoman Kandun, a senior health ministry official said as the WHO announced that a woman from Central Java Province died of the disease on Friday.
The woman identified as Mistiyem, was hospitalised on Oct. 12 and died a day later. Positive results from two Indonesian laboratories mean that the WHO includes the case in its records.
"Both tests showed her to be positively infected with the bird flu virus, making her the 55th fatal casualty" in Indonesia, said Tontro, an official at the ministry's national bird flu information center.
Her death, one day after she was hospitalized, was followed by that of an 11-year-old boy in the capital Jakarta on Saturday and a 67-year-old woman in West Java's town of Bandung on Sunday, health officials announced earlier this week.
The government has been criticized for failing to aggressively deal with the virus in poultry stocks, either by mass slaughters or vaccination. It says it does not have the funds to compensate farmers for birds culled in affected areas.
Kandun said Indonesian officials launched an all-out media campaign last month promoting simple but effective steps people can take to reduce the risks of contracting the H5N1 virus.