March 31, 2008 / 7:26 AM / 9 years ago

Two Indonesian youths die of bird flu

(Recasts with two deaths, denial of cluster case)

JAKARTA, March 31 (Reuters) - Two Indonesian youths have died from bird flu, a health ministry official said on Monday, taking the confirmed death toll in the country worst affected by the virus to 107.

A 15-year-old boy from Subang, in West Java, died on Wednesday in an area where chickens had died, said Nyoman Kandun, director general of communicable disease control at the ministry.

An 11-year-old girl from Bekasi, east of Jakarta, who died on Friday also tested positive for the virus, the official said.

"There were dead chickens in the boy’s neighbourhood, but in the girl’s case it is still unclear," Kandun said via a mobile phone text message.

Kandun dismissed the possibility of more bird flu cases in the same family after the boy’s brother died recently. Confirmed cluster cases raise concerns over human-to-human transmission.

"It is not correct that there is a cluster in Subang," Kandun said, adding that the brother has died of dengue fever.

Earlier on Monday, a 22-month-old girl from Sumatra’s Bukit Tinggi tested positive for bird flu and the health ministry was checking her neighbourhood for possible backyard farming.

"Her condition is improving, and she is being treated at a Padang hospital," Lily Sulistyowati, a health ministry spokeswoman, said by telephone.

Including the latest deaths, Indonesia has had 132 confirmed cases of the virus.

Contact with sick fowl is the most common way of contracting the H5N1 virus, which is endemic in bird populations in most of Indonesia.

According to United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data on March 19, bird flu has infected 31 out of 33 provinces in Indonesia.

Experts say the danger is the virus may evolve into a form that people can easily catch and pass to one another, in which case the transmission rate would soar, causing a pandemic in which millions of people could die. (Reporting by Mita Valina Liem; Editing by Ed Davies and Alex Richardson)




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