Indonesia's bird flu death toll rose to 11 yesterday amid worrying new evidence that the virus may be developing resistance to Tamiflu, the only drug known to be effective against it.
Test results from a World Health Organization (WHO)-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong showed that a 39-year-old Indonesian man and an eight-year-old boy were the country's latest victims of the H5N1 strain of the virus.
"It's been confirmed. We were informed of the results this morning," said Ilham Patu, a spokesman for Sulianti Saroso hospital.
The man, a resident of South Jakarta, died on Dec. 13, a day after being admitted to the hospital, while the boy died two days later at a private hospital in Jakarta.
Hundreds of officials and veterinary students began visiting houses across the capital yesterday, looking for sick poultry as part of a nationwide campaign to fight the disease, agriculture ministry official Makmur said.
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, bird flu had become resistant to Tamiflu in two fatal cases, a doctor said.
Menno de Jong, from the Institute of Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, said Tamiflu was ineffective in fighting the virus in two girls who died.
"Our two patients became resistant despite a full dose of treatment. Both died and in one patient there are some suggestions that the therapeutic failure and ultimately her death may have been caused by the development of resistance," he said.
This patient was a 13-year-old, who died eight days after showing the first symptoms. The other, 18, died three weeks after the onset of symptoms.
In China, state media reported that human trials of a bird flu vaccine had begun this week, with six volunteers being given shots.
The experiments, which will be carried out on 120 volunteers in Beijing, will last nine months, but preliminary conclusions are expected in around three months.