Indonesia yesterday reported its second human death from bird flu this year, with the death of a five-year-old girl who recently lost her relative to the deadly virus.
Concerns about avian influenza have risen in the region after China late last month reported its first fatality from the H5N1 virus in 18 months.
Vietnam on Thursday reported its first human death from the virus in nearly two years, as the virus also claimed the life of a toddler in Cambodia.
The latest Indonesian victim lived in the same house with a 24-year-old relative who died of the virus on Jan. 7, but authorities say there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission between the two infected people.
“The child passed away after being treated for a few days at a hospital,” said Tjandra Yoga Aditama, head of communicable diseases at Indonesia’s health ministry.
“We have conducted several tests and the results showed that she contracted the same H5N1 avian influenza virus that was detected before, so the virus has not developed,” he said.
The girl had contact with poultry around their neighborhood, he said, but could not confirm whether she had contracted the virus from chickens or pigeons — both found in her neighbourhood of Tanjung Priok in north Jakarta.
Indonesia has been the hardest-hit by bird flu, with 150 deaths reported between 2003 and last year, according to the WHO.
“With this case, the cumulative number of bird flu cases in Indonesia since 2005 has reached 184 cases, 152 of those ended in death,” the health ministry said on its Web site.
Nine Indonesians died from the virus last year, including two children, on the island of Bali in October.
The virus typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.