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indonesia confirms ninth bird flu death

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    Indonesia confirms ninth bird flu death
    December 14, 2005 - 6:59AM

    Indonesia has confirmed its ninth human death from bird flu, senior Health Ministry officials said, taking the global death toll from the disease to 71, all in Asia.

    A Hong Kong laboratory affiliated with the World Health Organisation confirmed an Indonesian had died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, which scientists fear will mutate into an easily spread human virus and spark a pandemic in which millions could die.

    "We have received confirmation. (The death toll) is now nine," said Hariadi Wibisono about the results of tests on a 35-year-old man who died last month.

    Another senior Health Ministry official said the man lived in West Jakarta where he had contact with live chickens that carried the H5N1 virus.

    "He was building his house and around it there were many chickens and birds running around. Researchers tested those birds and they were positive" carriers of H5N1, said I Nyoman Kandun, director general of disease control at the ministry.

    WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng told Reuters in Geneva people close to the man were under observation and samples had been taken for further testing. His wife and parents tested negative but his son had a fever, she said.

    The H5N1 strain has killed 71 out of 138 people known to have been infected. Five other people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus in Indonesia but have survived.

    The highly pathogenic strain is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, and has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Indonesia, an archipelago of some 17,000 islands and 220 million people.

    The country has millions of chickens and ducks, many in the backyards of rural or urban homes.

    Migrating birds have spread H5N1 into Europe. Romania registered new suspicious poultry deaths in a region west of the Danube delta, leading to thousands more birds being culled, officials said.

    Four H5N1 outbreaks have been confirmed in the country since October.

    But initial fears of the disease sweeping rapidly westwards appear to have lessened.

    © 2005 AAP

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